Linguistics and English Language

Language evolution seminar

Speaker: Matt Spike (CLE, University of Edinburgh)

Title: Unravelling linguistic complexity

Abstract: Linguistic complexity is hard to pull apart. What are the causally important variables - utterances, grammars, individuals, or populations? How can we measure complexity - inherent factors (e.g. processing cost and ecological fitness), statistical properties (e.g. counts, frequency, and information-theoretic quantities), or system-level descriptions (e.g. MDL or generative models)? What is an appropriate model for the evolution of complexity - biologically-inspired processes (e.g. selection, mutation, drift, migration, and interactions such as mutualisms), or culture-specific ones (e.g. guided variation and biased transmission)? Finally, how can we map between the candidate variables, measures, and models? In this talk, I will focus on this mapping problem by presenting some modelling work which shows i) how seemingly minor decisions can have major implications, ii) the importance of multilevel processes, and iii) how some variables (such as population size) have effects which are robust across multiple mappings.


Seminars are organised by the Centre for Language Evolution

Andres Karjus

Centre for Language Evolution

Oct 08 2019 -

Language evolution seminar

2019-10-08: Unravelling linguistic complexity

Room G32, Psychology Building, 7 George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9JZ