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"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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Academic Paper


Title: How Phonological Structures can be Culturally Selected for Learnability
Paper URL: http://www.csl.sony.fr/~py/publications.htm
Author: Pierre-Yves Oudeyer
Email: click here to access email
Homepage: http://www.csl.sony.fr/~py
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
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.
URL: http://www.csl.sony.fr/~py/publications.htm


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