Emergence of systematic iconicity: transmission, interaction and analogy

Abstract

Languages combine arbitrary and iconic signals. How do iconic signals emerge and when do they persist? We present an experimental study of the role of iconicity in the emergence of structure in an artificial language. Using an iterated communication game in which we control the signalling medium as well as the meaning space, we study the evolution of communicative signals in transmission chains. This sheds light on how affordances of the communication medium shape and constrain the mappability and transmissibility of form-meaning pairs. We find that iconic signals can form the building blocks for wider compositional patterns.


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