Experiments in the Emergence of Combinatorial Structure: Considering the Limitations of Articulation Space Proxies

Hannah Ruth Little

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


In real languages, articulation spaces can be the vocal tract in spoken languages or the gestural space used in sign-languages. Both experimental and computational work on the emergence of combinatorial structure use articulation space proxies. Ideal proxies for investigating the emergence of combinatorial structure are continuous spaces from which discrete signals can emerge given the set of conditions under investigation, but in experiments using human participants they also must be sufficiently dissimilar from actual articulation spaces to avoid influence from pre-existing linguistic knowledge. Recent experimental work has used signals generated using slide whistles (Verhoef 2012) or graphical representations (Del Guidice 2012). The question of how much the results from these experiments can be extrapolated to different modalities depends on how the physical aspects of an articulation space affects the emergence of combinatoriality within signals.
This poster will present the experimental design problems encountered when one doesn't consider different factors including the size and dimensionality of articulation space proxies, and the fact that iconicity and certain signal trajectories are more likely within some articulation spaces. Further to this, the size and dimensionality of an articulation space may directly affect the emergence of combinatorial structure, as larger articulation spaces allow for a greater number of distinct signals without the need for combinatoriality. I will present results from a recent iterated learning experiment which used slide whistles to investigate the effect that the size of an articulation space has on the emergence of combinatoriality, as well as proposals for future work.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationNijmegen Lectures
Place of PublicationNijmegen
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jan 2014

Publication series

NameNijmegen Lectures


  • language evolution
  • Speech evolution


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