Literacy, linguistics and compositionality: Investigating the effects of cultural systems on learning and language
Brown, Jessica Erin
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Recent linguistic research has shown that cultural processes operating over an extended timescale may be responsible for many aspects of syntax. Other evidence from artificial language learning studies indicates a strong bias for systematicity, potentially conflicting with these cultural accounts of language structure. However, such studies do not consider the influence of literacy, which may have been a primary determinant of their participants' behaviour. This dissertation explores the cognitive and academic consequences of literacy and empirically investigates the influence of cultural systems on language learning in a different modality, that of music. Musical literacy is shown to induce a similar bias for systematicity to orthographic literacy in traditional tasks. The trends found indicate that access to abstract representations alters learning. This work demonstrates the need to consider literacy when undertaking linguistic research, particularly the study of language evolution, as an accurate and complete understanding of language is a prerequisite for explaining its origin.