Janssen, R., & Dediu, D.
(2018). Genetic biases affecting language: What do computer models and experimental approaches suggest? In T. Poibeau, & A. Villavicencio (Eds.), Language, Cognition and Computational Models (pp. 256-288). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Computer models of cultural evolution have shown language properties emerging on interacting agents with a brain that lacks dedicated, nativist language modules. Notably, models using Bayesian agents provide a precise specification of (extra-)liguististic factors (e.g., genetic) that shape language through iterated learning (biases on language), and demonstrate that weak biases get expressed more strongly over time (bias amplification). Other models attempt to lessen assumption on agents’ innate predispositions even more, and emphasize self-organization within agents, highlighting glossogenesis (the development of language from a nonlinguistic state). Ultimately however, one also has to recognize that biology and culture are strongly interacting, forming a coevolving system. As such, computer models show that agents might (biologically) evolve to a state predisposed to language adaptability, where (culturally) stable language features might get assimilated into the genome via Baldwinian niche construction. In summary, while many questions about language evolution remain unanswered, it is clear that it is not to be completely understood from a purely biological, cognitivist perspective. Language should be regarded as (partially) emerging on the social interactions between large populations of speakers. In this context, agent models provide a sound approach to investigate the complex dynamics of genetic biasing on language and speech
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