The Emergence of Embodied Communication in Artificial Agents and Humans

Luc Steels, Bruno Galantucci

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There has been a great deal of research on language, but usually it dissects an existing language and treats it as a static set of rules that is used more or less accurately and successfully to convey meaning. Here we are interested in the emergence of new communication systems and in their expansion and adaptation in usage. We seek a theory of the kind of cognitive mechanisms and interaction patterns necessary to bootstrap, maintain, and adapt a communication system that has similar properties as those found in human languages, such as those identified by Hockett (1960) discreteness, displacement, productivity, duality of patterning, etc.
The question of the emergence and continuous adaptation of communication systems is obviously relevant to the question of the origins of human languages, which has been lately at the center of increasing attention (e.g. Larson et al. 2007). In fact, we believe that these questions should receive attention from every student of language, for two reasons. The first one is that language, as any other complex social or biological phenomenon, cannot be thoroughly understood in the absence of a theory about its origins. The second reason is that research on language use (e.g. Clark 1996) has shown that even "mature" languages like English and the conceptual repertoires they employ undergo constant change. Language and conceptual systems are continuously adapting to cope with the problems of communicating novel meanings in novel settings, and these systems are coordinated between speakers and listeners via a multilevel process of alignment (Pickering and Garrod 2004). This dynamic nature of language suggests that linguistics (both descriptive and computational) should pay more attention to the processes that give rise to language and constantly reshape it, and that language should be viewed as a complex, adaptive system rather than as the static, formal calculus definable by generative grammars (Steels 2000; Tomasello 2005).
This paper focuses on models that attempt to capture this dynamic nature of language. In addition, it focuses on issues related to communication between embodied agents. Embodying communication entails that the individuals engaged in communication have a body with which they are present in the world, and that they can only communicate through this body, as opposed to through some kind of direct or indirect way to transfer meaning. This has three important consequences.
Originele taal-2English
TitelEmbodied Communication in Humans and Machines
RedacteurenI. Wachsmuth, M. Lenzen, G. Knoblich
UitgeverijOxford University Press
ISBN van geprinte versie978-0-19-923175-1
StatusPublished - 2008

Publicatie series

NaamEmbodied Communication in Humans and Machines

Bibliografische nota

I. Wachsmuth, M. Lenzen, G. Knoblich

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