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Luc Steels


Physics of Life Reviews



Modeling the Cultural Evolution of Language


The paper surveys recent research on language evolution, focusing in particular on models of cultural evolution and how they are being developed and tested using agent-based computational simulations and robotic experiments. The key challenges for evolutionary theories of language are outlined and some example results are discussed, highlighting models explaining how linguistic conventions get shared, how conceptual frameworks get coordinated through language, and how hierarchical structure could emerge. The main conclusion of the paper is that cultural evolution is a much more powerful process that usually assumed, implying that less innate structures or biases are required and consequently that human language evolution has to rely less on genetic evolution.