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Conference Information

Full Title: How Grammaticalization Processes Create Grammar

Location: Vienna, Austria
Start Date: 14-Apr-2014 - 14-Apr-2014
Contact: Luc Steels
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting URL:
Meeting Description: Workshop ‘How Grammaticalization Processes Create Grammar. From Historical Corpus Data to Agent-based Models’


Luc Steels (ICREA, Institute for Evolutionary Biology (UPF-CSIC), Barcelona Sony Computer Science Laboratory Paris)
Freek Van de Velde (University of Leuven / FWO)
Remi van Trijp (Sony Computer Science Laboratory Paris)

Recently the scientific study of language origins and evolution has seen three important breakthroughs.

First, a growing number of historical linguistic corpora has become available. Although initially these corpora have been used to examine surface features only (e.g. the frequency and distribution of word occurrences), advances in statistical language processing now allow for the thorough examination of aspects of grammar, for example, how syntactic structure has progressively arisen in the history of Indo-European languages or how constructional choices have undergone change (e.g. Krug 2000; Bybee 2010; Sommerer 2010; Van de Velde 2010; Traugott & Trousdale, forthc.; Hilpert & Gries, ms.).

Second, agent-based models of the cognitive and cultural processes underlying the emergence and evolution of language have made a significant leap forward by using more realistic, representations of grammar and language processing (e.g. Van Trijp 2013; Beuls & Steels 2013), so that we can now go way beyond the lexicon-oriented experiments characteristic for the field a decade ago.

Finally, selectionist theorizing, which has given tremendous power to evolutionary biology, is being applied increasingly to understand language evolution at the cultural level (Croft 2000; Ritt 2004; Mufwene 2008; Rosenbach et al. 2008; Landsbergen et al. 2010; Steels 2011). Researchers are now looking more closely at what selectionist criteria could drive the origins and change in grammatical paradigms and how new language strategies could arise through exaptation, recombination or mutation of existing strategies. The selectionist criteria are primarily based on achieving enough expressive power, maximizing communicative success, and minimizing cognitive effort.

The confluence of these three trends is beginning to give us sophisticated agent-based models which are empirically grounded in corpus data and framed in a well-established theory of cultural evolution.

The goal of this workshop is to act as a forum for exchanging tools and it will inquire what kind of open problems might be amenable to this approach, given the currently available data and the state of the art in computational linguistics tools for agent-based modeling. The workshop is intended to enable a deeper dialog between two communities (historical linguistics and computational linguistics).

General research questions to be addressed:

1. What are the processes that cause variation in populations of speakers?
2. What are the processes that select variants to become dominant in a speech community?
3. How do language strategies give rise to language systems?
4. Which cognitive functions must the brain support in order to implement language strategies?
5. What are good tools for doing empirically driven agent-based modeling?

(Full references: see
Linguistic Subfield: Computational Linguistics; General Linguistics; Historical Linguistics
LL Issue: 24.3904

This is a session of the following meeting:
10th International Conference on the Evolution of Language

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