Interaction and the Evolution of Linguistic Complexity

18th June 2019, Bayes Centre, Edinburgh

This workshop will provide a forum for discussion for researchers interested in how languages are shaped by processes operating during communicative interaction, and particularly in how communicative interaction might lead to the accumulation or loss of linguistic complexity. We welcome submissions using experimental, modelling and corpus-based approaches to investigate these questions.

The workshop precedes the 8th Experimental Pragmatics Conference (19th-21st June), also held in Edinburgh.  

Participation is free of charge, and refreshments will be provided. The workshop has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement 681942, held by Kenny Smith).


Judith Degen (Stanford)

Mark Dingemanse (Radboud University)

Gerhard Jäger (University of Tübingen)


Registration is closed.


Room G.03, Bayes Centre, University of Edinburgh.

8.30-9 Coffee and breakfast snacks available
9-9.10 Welcome
9.10-10.10 Judith Degen, Harnessing the richness of the linguistic signal in predicting pragmatic inferences
10.10-10.30 Coffee
10.30-11.00 Thompson, Raviv & Kirby, Complexity can be maintained in small populations: a model of lexical variability in emerging sign languages.
11.00-11.30 Ponti, Hupkes & Bruni, The typology of emergent languages.
11.30-12.00 Dediu, Karsai, Lerique & Magué, Individual variation, network heterogeneity and linguistic complexity: which way does the relationship go?
12-1 Lunch
1-2 Gerhard Jäger, Complexity clines Out of Africa
2-2.20 Coffee
2.20-2.50 Lupyan, Large languages have higher entropy.
2.50-3.20 Kürsat, Ergin, Hartzell & Jackendoff, Linear order: a minimal syntactic tool expressing the modifier and the modified.
3.20-3.50 Ulicheva & Rastle, What drives spellings to change over time?
3.50-4.20 Coffee
4.20-5.20 Mark Dingemanse, Elementary particles of conversation
5.20-5.30 Poster set-up
5.30-7.30 Poster session with food and drinks – abstracts for posters are linked below.

Poster Abstracts

1. Chaabouni, Kharitonov, Dupoux & Baroni,  Are deep communicating agents efficient coders?

2. Franke, Scrontas & Simonič, The evolutionary pressure for subjectivity-based adjective ordering preferences.

3. Hofer & Levy, Iconicity and structure in the emergence of combinatoriality.

4. Johnson, Culbertson, Rabagliati & Smith, Assessing Integrative Complexity as a Measure of Morphological Learning.

5. Kalociński, Simple and informative scalar languages are monotone.

6. Kempe, Can children invent communication systems using entirely novel signals?

7. King & Wedel, Simulating the accumulation of lexical complexity.

8. Klassen, Jaffan & Heller, Gestural production as a window to semantic effect on word order in noun phrases.

9. Lev-Ari, Smaller communities develop more granular and better structured categories.

10. Lou-Magnuson & Onnis, Social network limits language complexity.

11. Mills, Procedural coordination in interaction: No evidence is better than negative evidence.

12. Mul, Unger, Dagan, Keresztury & Bruni, Improving sample efficiency with expert communication.

13. Rubio-Fernandez & Jara-Ettinger, Modelling common ground through referential specificity.

14. Schembri, Sociolinguistic typology, morphology complexity and indicating verbs in sign languages.

15. Seinhorst & van de Leur, Regularity versus phonetics in sound systems: experimental and typological data.

16. Semenuks, Investigating relationship between I-complexity and population size.

17. Spike,  Is the evolution of linguistic complexity more like population genetics or community ecology?

18. Tal & Arnon, The role of redundant marking in learning.

19. Tieleman, Lazaridou, Mourad, Blundell & Precup, Learning representations through communication.


The workshop is organised by Kenny Smith, Stella Frank, Carmen Saldana, Jia Loy, Tamar Johnson and Amira Saouri. Any questions, please email