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Communication increases category structure and alignment only when combined with cultural transmission

Silvey, C; Kirby, S; Smith, K; (2019) Communication increases category structure and alignment only when combined with cultural transmission. Journal of Memory and Language , 109 , Article 104051. 10.1016/j.jml.2019.104051. Green open access

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Abstract

The semantic categories labeled by words in natural languages are used for communication with others, and learned by observing the productions of others who learned them in the same way. Do these processes of communication and cultural transmission affect the structure of category systems and their alignment across speakers? We examine novel category systems that emerge from communication, cultural transmission, and both processes combined. Communication alone leads to category systems that vary widely in their communicative effectiveness, and are no more structured or aligned than those created by individuals. When combined with cultural transmission, communication speeds up convergence on a learnable number of structured, aligned categories that are consistently communicatively effective. However, cultural transmission without communication eventually has similar results. Communication appears to be neither necessary nor sufficient for creating semantic category systems that are robustly effective for communication. Furthermore, category systems that emerge from cultural transmission are more aligned across speakers than the systems created by individuals, suggesting that cultural transmission allows individuals to coordinate their semantic systems more effectively than they can through shared perceptual biases alone.

Type: Article
Title: Communication increases category structure and alignment only when combined with cultural transmission
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jml.2019.104051
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2019.104051
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Categories, Convexity, Alignment, Communication, Cultural transmission
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Language and Cognition
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10084279
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