Donnerstag 26.03.2020 12:00 — 14:00

Guest Lecture, Limor Raviv

Dr. Limor Raviv

Note! This event will be virtual.

Link to the zoom meeting:

Meeting ID: 941 492 451


Language and society: How social and learning pressures shape grammatical structure

Why are there so many different languages in the world? How much do languages differ from each other in terms of their linguistic structure and their learnability? And how do such differences come about? One possibility is that linguistic diversity stems from differences in the social environments in which languages evolve. Specifically, it has been suggested that big and sparse communities tend to have languages that are structurally simpler and therefore easier to learn. In this talk, I examine these claims experimentally by analyzing the live formation and acquisition of new languages that were created in the lab by different micro-societies under different social conditions.
First, I use a novel group communication paradigm to test how the process of language emergence is shaped by the fact that languages evolve in different types of communities, i.e., with different population sizes and different social network structures. Results showed that larger groups developed languages that were more systematic, and did so faster and more consistently than small groups. In contrast, there was no evidence for a similar role of network connectivity, with dense and sparse groups reaching similar levels of linguistic structure over time.

I also use an individual learning paradigm to assess these emerging languages in terms of their learnability and productivity. Specifically, I test whether the languages created in the group communication experiment differ from each other in how easily they are learned and used by new individuals, and whether this difference can be traced back to the languages’ group size origin and/or their degree of systematic structure. While languages that evolved in big and small groups turned out to be equally learnable, results confirmed that more structured languages are indeed advantageous for learning. However, the relationship between systematicity and learnability was not straightforward, and seems to be tightly related to generalizations and convergence amongst individuals.