Iterated learning: a framework for the emergence of language

Kenny Smith, Simon Kirby, Henry Brighton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

163 Citations (Scopus)


Language is culturally transmitted. Iterated learning, the process by which the output of one individual's learning becomes the input to other individuals' learning, provides a framework for investigating the cultural evolution of linguistic structure. We present two models, based upon the iterated learning framework, which show that the poverty of the stimulus available to language learners leads to the emergence of linguistic structure. Compositionality is language's adaptation to stimulus poverty.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-86
Number of pages16
JournalArtificial Life
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Language
  • Learning/physiology
  • Neural Networks (Computer)


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