Investigating how cultural transmission leads to the appearance of design without a designer in human communication systems
Recent work on the emergence and evolution of human communication has focused on getting novel systems to evolve from scratch in the laboratory. Many of these studies have adopted an interactive construction approach, whereby pairs of participants repeatedly interact with one another to gradually develop their own communication system whilst engaged in some shared task. This paper describes four recent studies that take a different approach, showing how adaptive structure can emerge purely as a result of cultural transmission through single chains of learners. By removing elements of interactive communication and focusing only on the way in which language is repeatedly acquired by learners, we hope to gain a better understanding of how useful structural properties of language could have emerged without being intentionally designed or innovated.