The Evolutionary Language Game: An orthogonal approach

T. Lenaerts*, B. Jansen, K.P. Tuyls, B. DeVylder

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Evolutionary game dynamics have been proposed as a mathematical framework for the cultural evolution of language and more specifically the evolution of vocabulary. This article discusses a model that is mutually exclusive in its underlying principals with some previously suggested models. The model describes how individuals in a population culturally acquire a vocabulary by actively participating in the acquisition process instead of passively observing and communicate through peer-to-peer interactions instead of vertical parent-offspring relations. Concretely, a notion of social/cultural learning called the naming game is first abstracted using learning theory. This abstraction defines the required cultural transmission mechanism for an evolutionary process. Second, the derived transmission system is expressed in terms of the well-known selection-mutation model defined in the context of evolutionary dynamics. In this way, the analogy between social learning and evolution at the level of meaning-word associations is made explicit. Although only horizontal and oblique transmission structures will be considered, extensions to vertical structures over different genetic generations can easily be incorporated. We provide a number of simplified experiments to clarify our reasoning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)566-582
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005

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