From language development to language evolution: A unified view of human lexical creativity
Thomas Brochhagen, Gemma Boleda, Eleonora Gualdoni, Yang Xu
July 2023

A defining property of human language is the creative use of words to express multiple meanings through word meaning extension. Such lexical creativity is manifested at different timescales, ranging from language development in children to the evolution of word meanings over history. We explore whether different manifestations of lexical creativity build on a common foundation. Using computational models, we show that a parsimonious set of semantic knowledge types characterize developmental data as well as evolutionary products of meaning extension spanning over 1,400 languages. Crucially, models for evolutionary data account very well for developmental data, and vice versa. These findings suggest a unified foundation for human lexical creativity underlying both the fleeting products of individual ontogeny and the evolutionary products of phylogeny across languages.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/007879
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Science
keywords: lexical semantics, language evolution, language development, language use, language production, semantics, semantics
Downloaded:71 times


[ edit this article | back to article list ]