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By J. C. Wells

How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.

Academic Paper

Title: How Phonological Structures can be Culturally Selected for Learnability
Paper URL:
Author: Pierre-Yves Oudeyer
Email: click here TO access email
Institution: Sony Computer Science Laboratory, Paris
Linguistic Field: Cognitive Science; Computational Linguistics; Historical Linguistics; Language Acquisition; Neurolinguistics; Phonology
Abstract: This paper shows how phonological structures can be culturally selected so as to become learnable and adapted to the ecological niche formed by the brains and bodies of speakers. A computational model of the cultural formation of syllable systems illustrates how general learning and physical biases can influence the evolution of the structure of vocalization systems. We use the artificial life methodology of building a society of artificial agents, equipped with motor, perceptual and cognitive systems that are generic and have a realistic complexity. We demonstrate that agents, playing the "imitation game," build shared syllable systems and show how these syllable systems relate to existing human syllable systems. Detailed experiments study the learnability of the self-organized syllable systems. In particular, we reproduce the critical period effect and the artificial language learning effect/L/without the need for innate biases which specify explicitly in advance the form of possible phonological structures. The ability of children agents to learn syllable systems is explained by the cultural evolutionary history of these syllable systems, which were selected for learnability.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Venue: Adaptive Behavior
Publication Info: Oudeyer, P-Y. (2005) How Phonological Structures can be Culturally Selected for Learnability, Adaptive Behavior, 13(4), pp. 269--280.
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