The role of perception-action relations in spoken communication and the emergence of phonological systems

Ph.D thesis of Clément Moulin-Frier (2011)

If the origin of language is difficult to properly study, the origin of its forms appears to be accessible to the experimental method. Languages, despite their large variety, display obvious regularities, the linguistic universals. We study them through more general reasoning about language emergence, in particular in the search of its precursors, both in ontogeny and phylogeny.

We study three main themes:

  • The communication situation;
  • The agent’s cognitive architectures;
  • and the emergence of linguistic universals in agent societies.

Our first contribution is a conceptual model of communicating agents in interaction, emanating from our bibliographic survey. We then cast it into the Bayesian mathematical formalism : an agent model is a probability distribution, and production and perception are defined by Bayesian inference. This allows a formal comparison of speech perception and production theoretical trends. Finally, computer simulations of agent societies help identify the conditions that favor the appearance of linguistic universals.

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