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Jost Gippert: Our Featured Linguist!

"Buenos dias", "buenas noches" -- this was the first words in a foreign language I heard in my life, as a three-year old boy growing up in developing post-war Western Germany, where the first gastarbeiters had arrived from Spain. Fascinated by the strange sounds, I tried to get to know some more languages, the only opportunity being TV courses of English and French -- there was no foreign language education for pre-teen school children in Germany yet in those days. Read more



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What is English? And Why Should We Care?

By: Tim William Machan

To find some answers Tim Machan explores the language's present and past, and looks ahead to its futures among the one and a half billion people who speak it. His search is fascinating and important, for definitions of English have influenced education and law in many countries and helped shape the identities of those who live in them.


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Medical Writing in Early Modern English

Edited by Irma Taavitsainen and Paivi Pahta

This volume provides a new perspective on the evolution of the special language of medicine, based on the electronic corpus of Early Modern English Medical Texts, containing over two million words of medical writing from 1500 to 1700.


Academic Paper


Title: Agent-Based Models of Strategies for the Emergence and Evolution of Grammatical Agreement
Paper URL: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0058960
Author: Katrien Beuls
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://ai.vub.ac.be/~katrien
Institution: Vrije Universiteit Brussel
Author: Luc Steels
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Catalan Institute for Advanced Studies
Linguistic Field: Computational Linguistics; Historical Linguistics
Abstract: Grammatical agreement means that features associated with one linguistic unit (for example number or gender) become associated with another unit and then possibly overtly expressed, typically with morphological markers. It is one of the key mechanisms used in many languages to show that certain linguistic units within an utterance grammatically depend on each other. Agreement systems are puzzling because they can be highly complex in terms of what features they use and how they are expressed. Moreover, agreement systems have undergone considerable change in the historical evolution of languages. This article presents language game models with populations of agents in order to find out for what reasons and by what cultural processes and cognitive strategies agreement systems arise. It demonstrates that agreement systems are motivated by the need to minimize combinatorial search and semantic ambiguity, and it shows, for the first time, that once a population of agents adopts a strategy to invent, acquire and coordinate meaningful markers through social learning, linguistic self-organization leads to the spontaneous emergence and cultural transmission of an agreement system. The article also demonstrates how attested grammaticalization phenomena, such as phonetic reduction and conventionalized use of agreement markers, happens as a side effect of additional economizing principles, in particular minimization of articulatory effort and reduction of the marker inventory. More generally, the article illustrates a novel approach for studying how key features of human languages might emerge.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: Beuls K, Steels L (2013) Agent-Based Models of Strategies for the Emergence and Evolution of Grammatical Agreement. PLoS ONE 8(3): e58960. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058960
URL: http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0058960


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