Conversation, cognition and cultural evolution: a model of the cultural evolution of word order through pressures imposed from turn taking in conversation

Sean Roberts, Stephen C. Levinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

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Abstract

This paper outlines a first attempt to model the special constraints that arise in language processing in conversation, and to explore the implications such functional considerations may have on language typology and language change. In particular, we focus on processing pressures imposed by conversational turn-taking and their consequences for the cultural evolution of the structural properties of language. We present an agent-based model of cultural evolution where agents take turns at talk in conversation. When the start of planning for the next turn is constrained by the position of the verb, the stable distribution of dominant word orders across languages evolves to match the actual distribution reasonably well. We suggest that the interface of cognition and interaction should be a more central part of the story of language evolution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)404–431
Number of pages28
JournalInteraction Studies
Volume18
Issue number3
Early online date8 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Issue title: Interaction and Iconicity in the Evolution of Language

Keywords

  • Turn taking
  • Pragmatics
  • Typology
  • World order
  • Cultural evolution

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