Emergent Properties of Speech and Language as Social Activities – Mark Liberman (Linguistic Data Consortium, University of Pennsylvania)
When linguists, psychologists or engineers try to understand, explain or imitate human speech and language, they usually do so by modeling individual speakers, hearers or learners. Nevertheless, language is an emergent property of groups (of humans), and elementary arguments suggest that non-trivial characteristics of speech and language emerge from interactions within groups of individuals over time. We should also expect that we need to look at how variable inherited traits affect such socially-emergent properties, in order to understand the evolved genetic influences on speech and language. After an obligatory but brief discussion of insect communication, this talk will explore the application of these ideas to (pathetically simple) models in two areas: morphosyntactic regularization and categorical perception.