Smith ADM & Tamariz M (2008) Regularity in mappings between signals and meanings. In: Smith A, Smith K & Ferrer iCR (eds.) The Evolution of Language. Singapore: World Scientific, pp. 315-22.
We combine information theory and cross-situational learning to develop a novel metric for quantifying the degree of regularity in the mappings between signals and meanings that can be inferred from exposure to language in context. We illustrate this metric using the results of two artificial language learning experiments, which show that learners are sensitive, with a high level of individual variation, to systematic regularities in the input. Analysing language using this measure of regularity allows us to explore in detail how language learning and language use can both generate linguistic variation, leading to language change, and potentially complexify language structure, leading to qualitative language evolution.
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