Kevin Stadler's publications

Matthew Spike, Kevin Stadler, Simon Kirby, and Kenny Smith. Minimal requirements for the emergence of learned signaling. Cognitive Science, 41(3):623-658, 2017. [ bib | DOI | http ]

The emergence of signaling systems has been observed in numerous experimental and real-world contexts, but there is no consensus on which (if any) shared mechanisms underlie such phenomena. A number of explanatory mechanisms have been proposed within several disciplines, all of which have been instantiated as credible working models. However, they are usually framed as being mutually incompatible. Using an exemplar-based framework, we replicate these models in a minimal configuration which allows us to directly compare them. This reveals that the development of optimal signaling is driven by similar mechanisms in each model, which leads us to propose three requirements for the emergence of conventional signaling. These are the creation and transmission of referential information, a systemic bias against ambiguity, and finally some form of information loss. Considering this, we then discuss some implications for theoretical and experimental approaches to the emergence of learned communication.

Kevin Stadler. The Page test is not a trend test. Technical report, 2017. [ bib | .html ]

Kevin Stadler. cultevo: Tools, Measures and Statistical Tests for Cultural Evolution. Technical report, 2017. [ bib | http ]

Kevin Stadler, Richard A. Blythe, Kenny Smith, and Simon Kirby. Momentum in language change: a model of self-actuating s-shaped curves. Language Dynamics and Change, 6(2):171-198, 2016. [ bib | DOI ]

Like other socially transmitted traits, human languages undergo cultural evolution. While humans can replicate linguistic conventions to a high degree of fidelity, sometimes established conventions get replaced by new variants, with the gradual replacement following the trajectory of an s-shaped curve. Although modeling work has shown that only a bias favouring the replication of the new linguistic variant can reliably reproduce the dynamics observed in language change, the source of this bias is still debated. In this paper we compare previous accounts with a momentum-based selection account of language change, a neutral model where the popularity of a variant is modulated by its momentum, i.e. its change in use in the recent past. We present results from a multi-agent model that are characteristic of language change, in particular by exhibiting spontaneously generated s-shaped transitions. We discuss several empirical questions raised by our model, pertaining to both language change as well as the replication of cultural traits more generally.

Kevin Stadler and E Jamieson. Quantifying speakers' awareness of a syntactic change in Shetland Scots. In Sociolinguistics Symposium 21, Murcia, Spain, 2016. [ bib ]

Sociolinguistic research of the past decades has shown that language changes spread across social groups in an orderly fashion, a process which is typically explained by the notion of prestige – a metalinguistic property of linguistic variants that determines whether a speech community will seek to increment the use of a variant or not. Crucially, the establishment of social prestige is itself a puzzle to be solved: the choice of which linguistic form becomes 'prestigious' is as arbitrary as the choice of using one variant over another. The prestige value of a variant needs to be negotiated and spread across the speech community in the first place, a process which requires just as much explanation as the diffusion of the linguistic form that it is supposed to explain. Recently, speakers' awareness of ongoing changes has been proposed as a solution to this problem of incrementation: being able to detect the 'age vector' (i.e. the direction and rate of a change) can provide a natural grounding for prestige that would allow speakers to systematically advance language changes across generations (Labov 2001; Tagliamonte and D'Arcy 2009). But while individuals' metalinguistic awareness of linguistic changes is a well-established fact in the field, evidence to this end has so far been mostly qualitative and anecdotal (Labov 2001; Tagliamonte 2012). In this work we investigate the human capacity for tracking ongoing changes in syntactic variables by probing speakers' awareness of three instances of the loss of verb movement in the variety of Scots spoken in Shetland, an island group to the North of Great Britain. Using a questionnaire methodology adapted from Trudgill (1972), 77 participants were asked to report their perceptions of usage levels among different age and speaker groups, alongside qualitative impressions of the 'age' of the competing variants for the three changing variables as well as a stable, non-changing control. This data allows us to extrapolate individual perceptions of differences in apparent time, showing that people are reliably capable of assessing variant age and determining the directionality of change for the changing variables. Alongside our quantitative results we also discuss the challenge of disentangling metalinguistic knowledge about age stratification and linguistic attitudes, and make suggestions on how our novel methodology could be improved further.

Kevin Stadler and E Jamieson. Age vectors of categorical variables: quantifying speakers' knowledge about ongoing syntactic changes in Shetland Scots. In New Ways of Analyzing Variation 45, Toronto, 2016. [ bib | .pdf ]

‘Age vectors' — a measure of the direction and rate of ongoing language changes — have been proposed as a mechanism to explain how speech communities systematically advance changes across generations. Here we extend previous investigations into individuals' explicit and implicit knowledge about ongoing changes to categorical variables. Using a questionnaire methodology we probed speakers' explicit knowledge about three syntactic changes taking place in an insular variety of Scots, alongside a control variable exhibiting stable variation. 77 participants estimated the relative usage of the competing variants for different speaker groups. Individuals reliably reported apparent time differences consistent with the ongoing changes. Younger informants were also more likely to report their own usage to be advanced over the community average. Our results indicate that people are reliably capable of determining the direction of changes, even for syntactic variables that are much less frequent in spontaneous speech than the phonetic ones investigated previously.

Kevin Stadler, E Jamieson, Kenny Smith, and Simon Kirby. Metalinguistic awareness of trends as a driving force in linguistic evolution: an empirical study. In Sean G. Roberts, Christine F. Cuskley, Luke McCrohon, Lluis Barceló-Coblijn, Olga Fehér, and Tessa Verhoef, editors, The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference (EVOLANG11), New Orleans, 2016. [ bib ]

Kevin Stadler. Direction and directedness in language change: an evolutionary model of selection by trend-amplification. PhD thesis, The University of Edinburgh, 2016. [ bib ]

Human languages are not static entities. Linguistic conventions, whose social and communicative meaning are understood by all members of a speech community, are gradually altered or replaced, whether by changing their forms, meanings, or by the loss of or introduction of altogether new distinctions. How do large speech communities go about re-negotiating arbitrary associations in the absence of centralised coordination? This thesis first provides an overview of the plethora of explanations that have been given for language change. Approaching language change in a quantitative and evolutionary framework, mathematical and computational modelling is put forward as a tool to investigate and compare these different accounts and their purported underlying mechanisms in a rigorous fashion. The central part of the thesis investigates a relatively recent addition to the pool of mechanisms that have been proposed to influence language change: I will compare previous accounts with a momentum-based selection account of language change, a replicator-neutral model where the popularity of a variant is modulated by its momentum, i.e. its change in frequency of use in the recent past. I will discuss results from a multi-agent model which show that the dynamics of a trend-amplifying mechanism like this are characteristic of language change, in particular by exhibiting spontaneously generated s-shaped transitions. I will also discuss several empirical predictions made by a momentum-based selection account which contrast with those that can be derived from other accounts of language change. Going beyond theoretical arguments for the role of trends in language change, I will go on to present fieldwork data of speakers' awareness of ongoing syntactic changes in the Shetland dialect of Scots. Data collected using a novel questionnaire methodology show that individuals possess explicit knowledge about the direction as well as current progression of ongoing changes, even for grammatical structures which are very low in frequency. These results complement previous experimental evidence which showed that individuals both possess and make use of implicit knowledge about age-dependent usage differences during ongoing sound changes. Echoing the literature on evolutionary approaches to language change, the final part of the thesis stresses the importance of explicitly situating different pressures either in the domain of the innovation of new or else the selection of existing variants. Based on a modification of the Wright-Fisher model from population genetics, I will argue that trend-amplification selection mechanisms provide predictions that neatly match empirical facts, both in terms of the diachronic dynamics of language change, as well as in terms of the synchronic distribution of linguistic traits that we find in the world.

Kevin Stadler. Computational phylogenetics for linguistic reconstruction: quantitative tools for a qualitative problem? In Second Edinburgh Symposium on Historical Phonology, page 37, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2015. [ bib | .pdf ]

Joachim De Beule and Kevin Stadler. An evolutionary cybernetics perspective on language and coordination. New Ideas in Psychology, 32:118-130, 2014. [ bib | DOI | http ]

Starting from the observation that many open issues in linguistics hinge on problems of semantics, we discuss three core semantic notions: categories, agency, and qualification or semiosis. We argue that the origin of these coincide with the emergence of self-regulatory systems, systems that control their own persistence as localizable dynamical systems. When such systems interact a metasystem transition can occur in which the regulatory capacity per system is increased through the mechanisms of extension and specialization. Newly arising mutual dependencies force the formerly independent systems to coordinate their behaviour which leads them to effectively become a single system – a novel agency at a higher level of organization – thus qualifying the emergence of a novel language or code. We go on to argue that natural languages are instances of such naturally occurring conventionalization processes, corroborating the view that language should primarily be characterized as coordination.

Matthew Spike, Kevin Stadler, Simon Kirby, and Kenny Smith. Minimal requirements for the emergence of learned signalling. In Erica Cartmill, Seán Roberts, Heidi Lyn, and Hannah Cornish, editors, The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference (EVOLANG10), pages 521-522, Vienna, Austria, 2014. University of Vienna, World Scientific. [ bib ]

Kevin Stadler. Computational phylogenetics for linguistic reconstruction: quantitative tools for a qualitative problem? In Evolutionary linguistics and historical language studies: Workshop at the 10th International Conference on the Evolution of Language (EVOLANG10), page 46, Vienna, Austria, 2014. University of Vienna. [ bib ]

Kevin Stadler, Richard A. Blythe, Kenny Smith, and Simon Kirby. Momentum-based language change: a non-adaptive model of directional selection. In Erica Cartmill, Seán Roberts, Heidi Lyn, and Hannah Cornish, editors, The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference (EVOLANG10), pages 525-526, Vienna, Austria, 2014. University of Vienna, World Scientific. [ bib ]

Matthew Spike, Kevin Stadler, Simon Kirby, and Kenny Smith. Learning, feedback and information in self-organizing communication systems. In Markus Knauff, Michael Pauen, Natalie Sebanz, and Ipke Wachsmuth, editors, Proceedings of the 35th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, pages 3442-3447, Austin, Texas, 2013. Cognitive Science Society. [ bib | .html ]

Communication systems reliably self-organize in populations of interacting agents under certain conditions. The various fields which model this - game theory, cognitive science and evolutionary linguistics - make different assumptions about the learning and behavioral processes which are responsible. We created an exemplar-based framework to directly compare these approaches by reproducing previously published models. Results show that a number of mechanisms are shared by the systems which can construct optimal communication. Three general factors are then proposed to underlie any self-organizing learned system.

Kevin Stadler. Chunking Constructions. In Luc Steels, editor, Computational Issues in Fluid Construction Grammar, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, pages 75-88. Springer, Berlin, 2012. [ bib | http ]

Compositionality is a core property of human languages that sets them apart from other communication systems found in the animal world. But psycholinguistic evidence indicates that humans do not always decompose complex expressions in language processing. Redundant representations of compositional structure appear to be necessary to account for human linguistic capacities, a fact that should be reflected in any realistic language processing framework. This chapter presents an algorithm for dynamically combining multiple constructions into a single chunk in Fluid Construction Grammar. We further investigate where cases of spontaneous combinations of productive constructions occur in natural language, and discuss the relevance of redundant representations for experiments on artificial language evolution.

Kevin Stadler, Pieter Wellens, and Joachim De Beule. The Combinatorial Naming Game. In Bernard De Baets, Bernard Manderick, Michael Rademaker, and Willem Waegeman, editors, BeneLearn 2012. Proceedings of the 21st Belgian-Dutch Conference on Machine Learning, pages 33-38, Ghent, Belgium, 2012. [ bib | http ]

In this article we introduce combinatorial form into the well-known Naming Game paradigm in which autonomous agents have to establish a globally shared communication system through strictly local interactions. While virtually all investigations of the Naming Game so far have been carried out using atomic names, we highlight some interesting aspects that arise only when naming is done using combinatorial forms. We present an analysis which relates Naming Games to information theory and discuss first results from multi-agent simulations in light of this analysis.

Kevin Stadler and Joachim De Beule. Reconstructing linguistic phylogenies - a tautology? In European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association Annual Meeting, Durham, UK, March 25-28, 2012. [ bib ]

Kevin Stadler. Reconstructing linguistic phylogenies – a tautology?, 2011. [ bib | .html ]

Joris Bleys, Kevin Stadler, and Joachim De Beule. Search in linguistic processing. In Luc Steels, editor, Design Patterns in Fluid Construction Grammar, pages 149-180. John Benjamins Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 2011. [ bib ]

Kevin Stadler. Dynamic chunking of compositional structure in Fluid Construction Grammar. In Proceedings of the 23rd Benelux Conference on Artificial Intelligence (BNAIC 2011), pages 207-214, Ghent, Belgium, November 3-4, 2011. [ bib ]

Kevin Stadler. Cultural transmission and inductive biases in populations of Bayesian learners. Msc dissertation, The University of Edinburgh, 2009. [ bib | http ]

Recent research on computational models of language change and cultural evolution in general has focused on the analytical study of languages as dynamic systems, thus avoiding the difficulties of analysing the complex multi-agent interactions underlying numerical simulations of cultural transmission. The same is true for the examination of the effects of inductive biases on language distributions within the Bayesian Iterated Learning Framework. The aim of this work is to test whether the strong results obtained through analytical methods in this framework also extend to finite populations of Bayesian learners, and to investigate what other effects richer population dynamics have on the results. Small world networks are introduced as a tool to model social structures which are shown to play an important role in the outcome of cultural transmission processes. The assumptions behind a Bayesian approach to language learning and its implications will be studied and compared to previous models of language change. While studying the effects of populations on convergence rates in the Bayesian model, the role of more complex population settings for the future of Iterated Learning will also be explored.

Hannes Kulovits, Christoph Becker, Michael Kraxner, Florian Motlik, Kevin Stadler, and Andreas Rauber. Plato: A Preservation Planning Tool Integrating Preservation Action Services. In Birte Christensen-Dalsgaard, Donatella Castelli, Bolette Ammitzbøll Jurik, and Joan Lippincott, editors, Research and Advanced Technology for Digital Libraries, volume 5173 of Lecture Notes in Computer Science, pages 413-414, Berlin, Heidelberg, 2008. Springer-Verlag. [ bib | DOI | http ]

The creation of a concrete plan for preserving a collection of digital objects of a specific institution necessitates the evaluation of available solutions against clearly defined and measurable criteria. This process is called preservation planning and aids in the decision making process to find the most suitable preservation strategy considering the institution's requirements, the planning context and available actions applicable to the objects contained in the repository. Performed manually, this evaluation promises to be hard and tedious work, inasmuch as there exist numerous potential preservation action tools of different quality. In this demonstration, we present Plato [4], an interactive software tool aimed at creating preservation plans.

Stephan Strodl, Florian Motlik, Kevin Stadler, and Andreas Rauber. Personal & SOHO Archiving. In Proceedings of the 8th ACM/IEEECS joint conference on Digital libraries (JCDL 2008), pages 115-123, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 16-20, 2008. ACM Press. [ bib | DOI | http ]

Digital objects require appropriate measures for digital preservation to ensure that they can be accessed and used in the near and far future. While heritage institutions have been addressing the challenges posed by digital preservation needs for some time, private users and SOHOs (Small Office/Home Office) are less prepared to handle these challenges. Yet, both have increasing amounts of data that represent considerable value, be it office documents or family photographs. Backup, common practice of home users, avoids the physical loss of data, but it does not prevent the loss of the ability to render and use the data in the long term. Research and development in the area of digital preservation is driven by memory institutions and large businesses. The available tools, services and models are developed to meet the demands of these professional settings. This paper analyses the requirements and challenges of preservation solutions for private users and SOHOs. Based on the requirements and supported by available tools and services, we are designing and implementing a home archiving system to provide digital preservation solutions specifically for digital holdings in the small office and home environment. It hides the technical complexity of digital preservation challenges and provides simple and automated services based on established best practice examples. The system combines bit preservation and logical preservation strategies to avoid loss of data and the ability to access and use them. A first software prototype, called Hoppla, is presented in this paper.

Kevin Stadler and E Jamieson. Age vectors of categorical variables: quantifying speakers' knowledge about ongoing syntactic changes in Shetland Scots. in preparation. [ bib ]

Kevin Stadler and Luis Miguel Rojas-Berscia. Galton's problem and the Comparative Method. in preparation. [ bib ]

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