Distinguishing selection pressures in an evolving communication system: Evidence from colournaming in 'cross signing'
Cross-signing—the emergence of an interlanguage between users of different sign languages—offers a rare chance to examine the evolution of a natural communication system in real time. To provide an insight into this process, we analyse an annotated video corpus of 340 minutes of interaction between signers of different language backgrounds on their first meeting and after living with each other for several weeks. We focus on the evolution of shared color terms and examine the role of different selectional pressures, including frequency, content, coordination and interactional context. We show that attentional factors in interaction play a crucial role. This suggests that understanding meta-communication is critical for explaining the cultural evolution of linguistic systems.
Publication typeJournal article