A model of linguistic accommodation leading to language simplification

AbstractLanguage complexity seems to be influenced by population characteristics such as the proportion of adult learners. One potential explanation for this link is that native speakers accommodate to non-native speakers, simplifying their language use during such interactions: learners may then acquire a less complex language. We model accommodation in interaction in a Bayesian framework, where in order to accommodate appropriately, an agent must first infer their interlocutor's linguistic abilities. We find that when the agent consistently accommodates, learners end up with a simplified language, due to a reinforcing effect between an initially under-informed learner and an accommodating native speaker.


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