Author Archives: Simon Kirby

Major research grant for Kenny Smith

By Simon Kirby | January 25, 2016

Kenny has been successful in securing a major 5 year grant from the European Research Council to investigate the Evolution of Linguistic Complexity. Well done, Kenny!

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Mark Atkinson on variability, social structure and complexity

By Simon Kirby | December 12, 2013

Tuesday 17th, 11-12.30, Room 1.17 Dugald Stewart Building Input variability as a mechanism for social structure determination of linguistic complexity Mark Atkinson Abstract: While non-linguistic features of a speech community have been shown to correlate with degrees of linguistic complexity, the explanatory mechanism(s) by which they could have such an influence has not yet been [...]

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Kevin Stadler on functionalism, LEC talk, Dec 10th

By Simon Kirby | December 6, 2013

***NOTE UNUSUAL START TIME*** Tue 10th December, 11.30-1.00, B21 7 George Square Functionalism and Its Discontents Kevin Stadler Functional explanations of language features have not only regained appeal in the past decades by their reframing in evolutionary (read: selectionist) terms, they’ve also recently been joined by newly discovered relationships between linguistic features such as grammatical [...]

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LEC talk, 26th Nov, Alan Nielsen

By Simon Kirby | November 25, 2013

Tuesday 26th, 11-12.30, B21 7 George Square Motivated vs. conventional systematicity: Implications for language learning and the structure of the lexicon Alan Nielsen Given that the task of language learning involves pressures for both learnability and communicative accuracy, one might expect that, contra to the linguistic dogma of arbitrariness, systematic mappings between signals and meanings [...]

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LEC meeting, 19th Nov, Olga Feher

By Simon Kirby | November 14, 2013

Tuesday 19th November, 11-12.30, B21 7 George Square The elimination of unpredictable variation is dependent on speaker identity Olga Feher Natural languages do not normally exhibit unpredictable variation, which is when an object is labelled by two or more words that are used interchangeably in a random manner. Synonyms are common but their use is [...]

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LEC meeting, 12th Nov, Marieke Schouwstra

By Simon Kirby | November 8, 2013

Time: 11-12.30, Tuesday 12th November Place: B21 7 George Square Semantic structure and emerging conventions in silent gesture Marieke Schouwstra When individuals do not share a common language, they cannot reliably use existing linguistic conventions when they communicate. This is is the case in, e.g., unsupervised second language acquisition and home sign. I will briefly [...]

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LEC meeting, 29th October, Klaas Seinhorst

By Simon Kirby | October 23, 2013

Tuesday 29th October, 11.00-12.30, B21 7 George Square Klaas Seinhorst – The learnability of phoneme inventories I will present my PhD project “The learnability of phoneme inventories”, which I started at the University of Amsterdam in September 2012. The starting point of my project was the observation that languages have strong preferences for certain sets [...]

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LEC meeting – 22nd Oct – Bill Thompson

By Simon Kirby | October 17, 2013

Tuesday 22nd October, 11-12.30, B21 7 George Square Model Fitting and Prediction for Language Evolution: Quirks and Opportunities Bill Thompson Questions concerning the origins of linguistic structures are increasingly being studied by means of artificial language learning experiments. Central to this enterprise is the drive to uncover cognitive biases that shape the evolution of linguistic [...]

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LEC meeting 1st Oct: Simon Kirby

By Simon Kirby | September 27, 2013

Bill has unfortunately had to postpone his talk next week, so I will be stepping in to give a short presentation about some of the work that Kenny and I have been doing on analysing iterated artificial sign language experiments. It’s really fun and rich data, and we’d like your input on how to tackle [...]

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CANCELLED: Marius Kempe, LEC talk, 24th Sep

By Simon Kirby | September 19, 2013

Tue 24th September, 11.00-12.30, B21 7 George Square Experimental and theoretical models of cultural evolution Marius Kempe, University of Durham Abstract: I will talk about two experimental and two theoretical models of cultural evolution. In the first experiment, I test the hypothesis that increasing group size speeds up cultural accumulation, using a novel puzzle-solving task [...]

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