Hannah Cornish

Post-Grad Student
Linguistics and English Language
The University of Edinburgh
Dugald Stewart Building
3 Charles Street
Edinburgh EH8 9AD
My email address
Language at Edinburgh

I was awarded an MA(Hons) in Linguistics and Artificial Intelligence from The University of Edinburgh in 2005 and wrote my undergraduate dissertation on the role of meaning and expressivity within the iterated learning model of language evolution. This project involved programming artificial neural networks to learn elements of structured language, and exploring what happens when the system evolves only under the pressure to become learnable. I then went on to obtain an MSc in Developmental Linguistics as part of a 1+3 studentship from the ESRC. My masters thesis is closely related to my current work, and can be found here.
Research interests
Right now I work within the Language Evolution and Computation Research Unit, taking an empirical approach to studying language evolution and the unintentional emergence of cumulative culture in human populations.
Current Project - Human Iterated Learning
My current project revolves around developing an experimental method for examining language learning and evolution in human subjects. This will hopefully open up a new and exciting area of research, providing a testing ground for the predictions made by many modellers and researchers here in Edinburgh, and offer new insights into how language acquisition interfaces with social and population dynamics.
1) Cornish, H. (2010). Investigating how cultural transmission leads to the appearance of design without a designer in human communication systems. Interaction Studies, 11(1), 112-137.

2) Cornish, H., Tamariz, M., & Kirby, S. (2009). Complex adaptive systems and the origins of adaptive structure: what experiments can tell us. Special issue on Language as a complex Adaptive System. Language Learning: 59:4S1.

3) Kirby, S., Cornish, H., & Smith, K. (2008). Cumulative cultural evolution in the laboratory: An experimental approach to the origins of structure in human language. PNAS, 105:31, 10681-10685.

Chapters in Books/Articles in Collections
1) Kirby, S., Smith, K., & Cornish, H. (2008). Language, Learning and Cultural Evolution: how linguistic transmission leads to cumulative adaptation. In R. Cooper and R. Kempson (Eds.), Language in Flux: Dialogue Coordination, Language Variation, Change and Evolution. London: College Publications.

Conference Proceedings
1) Cornish, H., Christiansen, M. H., & Kirby, S. (2010). The Emergence of Structure from Sequence Memory Constraints in Cultural Transmission. EVOLANG8, Utrecht, Netherlands.

2) Matthews, C., Kirby, S., & Cornish, H. (2010). The Cultural Evolution of Language in a World of Continuous Meanings. EVOLANG8, Utrecht, Netherlands.

3) Cornish, H. (2008). An experiment exploring language emergence: how to see the invisible hand and why we should. EVOLANG7, Barcelona, Spain.