Journal article

Language learning, language use and the evolution of linguistic variation.

Kenny Smith, Amy Perfors, Olga Fehér, Anna Samara, Kate Swoboda, Elizabeth Wonnacott

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences | Published : 2017

Abstract

Linguistic universals arise from the interaction between the processes of language learning and language use. A test case for the relationship between these factors is linguistic variation, which tends to be conditioned on linguistic or sociolinguistic criteria. How can we explain the scarcity of unpredictable variation in natural language, and to what extent is this property of language a straightforward reflection of biases in statistical learning? We review three strands of experimental work exploring these questions, and introduce a Bayesian model of the learning and transmission of linguistic variation along with a closely matched artificial language learning experiment with adult parti..

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