Can iterated learning explain the emergence of graphical symbols?

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This paper contrasts two influential theoretical accounts of language change and evolution – Iterated Learning and Social Coordination. The contrast is based on an experiment that compares drawings produced with Garrod et al.’s (2007) ‘pictionary’ task with those produced in an Iterated Learning version of the same task. The main finding is that Iterated Learning does not lead to the systematic simplification and increased symbolicity of graphical signs produced in the standard interactive version of the task. A second finding is that Iterated Learning leads to less conceptual and structural alignment between participants than observed for those in the interactive condition. The paper concludes with a comparison of the two accounts in relation to how each promotes signs that are efficient, systematic and learnable.


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