Form is Function: Faithful Transmission of Information as a Pressure for Linguistic Structure
Vollmer, Lauren N
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We take descriptions of language structure and evolution in terms of information theory as the basis of an investigation of the information-preserving capacity of linguistic features. We begin by examining factors affecting the performance of conventional error-correcting codes, which we compare to message construction algorithms designed to replicate basic linguistic features. We then subject these message construction algorithms to selective pressure maximizing transmission accuracy and examine the structure of the resulting systems. The emergence of structural patterns in the optimized systems points to the centrality of information preservation as a pressure on emerging linguistic systems.