Vogt, P. (2007) Variation, competition and selection in the self-organisation of compositionality. In: Brendan Wallace et al. (Eds.) The Mind, the Body and the World Imprint. To appear soon.
Abstract This chapter discusses how Darwin's evolution theory can be applied to explain language evolution at a cultural level. So, rather than viewing language evolution as a process in which the users adapt biologically to learn language, languages themselves adapt to the learning abilities of individuals. Within this framework, languages evolve through variation, competition and selection. Invention and learning are identified as variation mechanisms; learnability, transmission bottlenecks and stability are pressures for competition; and optimising for success is a good selection mechanism. Rather than studying the language development in individual users, this chapter illustrates how artificial multi-agent systems equipped with these principles can self-organise a compositional language from scratch. It is argued that this model offers a good alternative to many standard approaches in linguistics.