A simulation study exploring the role of cultural transmission in language evolution

Tao Gong, James W. Minett, William Shi Yuan Wang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


This paper proposes a language acquisition framework that includes both intra-generational transmission among children and inter-generational transmission between adults and children. A multi-agent computational model that adopts this framework is designed to evaluate the relative roles of these forms of cultural transmission in language evolution. It is shown that intra-generational transmission helps accelerate the convergence of linguistic knowledge and introduce changes in the communal language, while inter-generational transmission helps preserve an initial language to a certain extent. Due to conventionalisation during transmission, both forms of transmission collectively achieve a dynamic equilibrium of language evolution: On short time-scales, good understandability is maintained among individuals across generations; in the long run, language change is inevitable.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-85
Number of pages17
JournalConnection Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Computational simulation
  • Conventionalisation
  • Cultural transmission
  • Language evolution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Artificial Intelligence


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