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Modeling Coevolution between Language and Memory Capacity during Language Origin.

Gong T, Shuai L - PLoS ONE (2015)

Bottom Line: Apart from empirical studies of memory effects on language acquisition and use, there lack sufficient evolutionary explorations on whether a high level of memory capacity is prerequisite for language and whether language origin could influence memory capacity.Simulations showed that: along with the origin of a communal language, an initially-low memory capacity for acquired linguistic knowledge was boosted; and such coherent increase in linguistic understandability and memory capacities reflected a language-memory coevolution; and such coevolution stopped till memory capacities became sufficient for language communications.This work elaborated the biology-culture parallelism of language evolution, demonstrated the driving force of culturally-constituted factors for natural selection of individual cognitive abilities, and suggested that the degree difference in language-related cognitive abilities between humans and nonhuman animals could result from a coevolution with language.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
Memory is essential to many cognitive tasks including language. Apart from empirical studies of memory effects on language acquisition and use, there lack sufficient evolutionary explorations on whether a high level of memory capacity is prerequisite for language and whether language origin could influence memory capacity. In line with evolutionary theories that natural selection refined language-related cognitive abilities, we advocated a coevolution scenario between language and memory capacity, which incorporated the genetic transmission of individual memory capacity, cultural transmission of idiolects, and natural and cultural selections on individual reproduction and language teaching. To illustrate the coevolution dynamics, we adopted a multi-agent computational model simulating the emergence of lexical items and simple syntax through iterated communications. Simulations showed that: along with the origin of a communal language, an initially-low memory capacity for acquired linguistic knowledge was boosted; and such coherent increase in linguistic understandability and memory capacities reflected a language-memory coevolution; and such coevolution stopped till memory capacities became sufficient for language communications. Statistical analyses revealed that the coevolution was realized mainly by natural selection based on individual communicative success in cultural transmissions. This work elaborated the biology-culture parallelism of language evolution, demonstrated the driving force of culturally-constituted factors for natural selection of individual cognitive abilities, and suggested that the degree difference in language-related cognitive abilities between humans and nonhuman animals could result from a coevolution with language.

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Related in: MedlinePlus

Marginal mean UR (a) and LTM capacity (b) in the sets with and without natural (Nat) or cultural (Cul) selection.Mean UR and LTM capacity throughout 2000 generations in the sets with natural selection (c) and without (d). Error bars denote standard errors. Initial LTM capacity is 30.
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pone.0142281.g005: Marginal mean UR (a) and LTM capacity (b) in the sets with and without natural (Nat) or cultural (Cul) selection.Mean UR and LTM capacity throughout 2000 generations in the sets with natural selection (c) and without (d). Error bars denote standard errors. Initial LTM capacity is 30.

Mentions: Natural and cultural selections take effect throughout 2000 generations. Comparing absolute UR values at each sampling point would fail to reveal the general effects of these selections. Noting this, we further compare the marginal mean URs (the average UR at all sampling points in all simulations) in the four sets of simulations. As shown in Fig 5(a), the marginal UR in the sets with natural selection (Nat_NoCul and Nat_Cul) appears significantly higher than that in the sets without (NoNat_NoCul and NoNat_Cul), whereas the marginal mean UR in the sets with cultural selection (NoNat_Cul and Nat_Cul) is almost identical to that in the sets without (NoNat_NoCul or Nat_NoCul). These observations confirm that it is natural selection, rather than cultural selection, that drives the origin of a communal language with high UR, which echoes the statistically significant effect of natural selection on UR.


Modeling Coevolution between Language and Memory Capacity during Language Origin.

Gong T, Shuai L - PLoS ONE (2015)

Marginal mean UR (a) and LTM capacity (b) in the sets with and without natural (Nat) or cultural (Cul) selection.Mean UR and LTM capacity throughout 2000 generations in the sets with natural selection (c) and without (d). Error bars denote standard errors. Initial LTM capacity is 30.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

License
Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC4636343&req=5

pone.0142281.g005: Marginal mean UR (a) and LTM capacity (b) in the sets with and without natural (Nat) or cultural (Cul) selection.Mean UR and LTM capacity throughout 2000 generations in the sets with natural selection (c) and without (d). Error bars denote standard errors. Initial LTM capacity is 30.
Mentions: Natural and cultural selections take effect throughout 2000 generations. Comparing absolute UR values at each sampling point would fail to reveal the general effects of these selections. Noting this, we further compare the marginal mean URs (the average UR at all sampling points in all simulations) in the four sets of simulations. As shown in Fig 5(a), the marginal UR in the sets with natural selection (Nat_NoCul and Nat_Cul) appears significantly higher than that in the sets without (NoNat_NoCul and NoNat_Cul), whereas the marginal mean UR in the sets with cultural selection (NoNat_Cul and Nat_Cul) is almost identical to that in the sets without (NoNat_NoCul or Nat_NoCul). These observations confirm that it is natural selection, rather than cultural selection, that drives the origin of a communal language with high UR, which echoes the statistically significant effect of natural selection on UR.

Bottom Line: Apart from empirical studies of memory effects on language acquisition and use, there lack sufficient evolutionary explorations on whether a high level of memory capacity is prerequisite for language and whether language origin could influence memory capacity.Simulations showed that: along with the origin of a communal language, an initially-low memory capacity for acquired linguistic knowledge was boosted; and such coherent increase in linguistic understandability and memory capacities reflected a language-memory coevolution; and such coevolution stopped till memory capacities became sufficient for language communications.This work elaborated the biology-culture parallelism of language evolution, demonstrated the driving force of culturally-constituted factors for natural selection of individual cognitive abilities, and suggested that the degree difference in language-related cognitive abilities between humans and nonhuman animals could result from a coevolution with language.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, Connecticut, United States of America.

ABSTRACT
Memory is essential to many cognitive tasks including language. Apart from empirical studies of memory effects on language acquisition and use, there lack sufficient evolutionary explorations on whether a high level of memory capacity is prerequisite for language and whether language origin could influence memory capacity. In line with evolutionary theories that natural selection refined language-related cognitive abilities, we advocated a coevolution scenario between language and memory capacity, which incorporated the genetic transmission of individual memory capacity, cultural transmission of idiolects, and natural and cultural selections on individual reproduction and language teaching. To illustrate the coevolution dynamics, we adopted a multi-agent computational model simulating the emergence of lexical items and simple syntax through iterated communications. Simulations showed that: along with the origin of a communal language, an initially-low memory capacity for acquired linguistic knowledge was boosted; and such coherent increase in linguistic understandability and memory capacities reflected a language-memory coevolution; and such coevolution stopped till memory capacities became sufficient for language communications. Statistical analyses revealed that the coevolution was realized mainly by natural selection based on individual communicative success in cultural transmissions. This work elaborated the biology-culture parallelism of language evolution, demonstrated the driving force of culturally-constituted factors for natural selection of individual cognitive abilities, and suggested that the degree difference in language-related cognitive abilities between humans and nonhuman animals could result from a coevolution with language.

No MeSH data available.


Related in: MedlinePlus