2011Language Evolution and SA-OT: The case of sentential negation.
Conference talk given at: Computational Linguistics in the Netherlands (CLIN) 21, February 11, 2011, University College Ghent, Belgium. Slides.
NB: Joint paper with Alessandro Lopopolo.




Simulated Annealing Optimality Theory (SA-OT) is a recent update of the OT framework, and it adds a model of performance to a theory of linguistic competence. Our aim is to show how SA-OT can be useful for Language Evolution simulations. Performance error is a central concept in this model, and it is considered to be one of the causes of variation and evolution. In performance, speakers accept sacrificing precision in order to enhance communicative strength, and the performance errors influence the language learning of the next generation.

In order to test the potentialities of SA-OT, we have chosen to model the evolution of sentential negation. The background is based on Jespersen's Cycle (JC). In JC, the evolution of sentential negation follows three stages (1. pre-verbal, 2. discontinuous, and 3. post-verbal). Our starting point is the treatment of JC by de Swart (2010) in terms of traditional OT. Her model predicts six stages: the three above-mentioned pure stages, as well as three intermediate, mixed stages. Yet, there are no convincing empirical data for an intermediate stage between stages 1 and 3.

Therefore, we advance a novel, computational model for JC, based on SA-OT. It reproduces the three pure and the two observed mixed stages, whereas it correctly predicts the lack of an intermediate stage between 1 and 3. This result makes different predictions for the evolution of sentential negation, and confirms the validity of SA-OT as a computational model for language evolution.