The cultural evolution of language

Monica Tamariz, Simon Kirby

    Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

    76 Citations (Scopus)


    Human language has unusual structural properties that enable open-ended communication. In recent years, researchers have begun to appeal to cultural evolution to explain the emergence of these structural properties. A particularly fruitful approach to this kind of explanation has been the use of laboratory experiments. These typically involve participants learning and interacting using artificially constructed communication systems. By observing the evolution of these systems in the lab, researchers have been able to build a bridge between individual cognition and population-wide emergent structure. We review these advances, and show how cultural evolution has been used to explain the origins of structure in linguistic signals, and in the mapping between signals and meanings.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)37-43
    JournalCurrent Opinion in Psychology
    Early online date14 Sept 2015
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


    • cultural language evolution
    • review


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