University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Language Sciences

Postgraduate Course: Language Evolution in the Lab (LASC11124)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryIn this eminently practical course, students will gain hands-on experience with designing and running a language evolution experiment. Working in small groups, they will replicate a classic iterated learning experiment, but will be given a chance to add a novel twist to it. The practical work will be supported by class discussion and workshops, and also by lectures on key aspects of the experimental process, such as experiment and stimulus design, writing programming code, statistical analysis of iterated learning data, drafting a research report and ethical considerations.
Course description Students will be expected to post contributions to the course blog throughout the course, including for instance critical summaries of relevant papers, their progress with the experimental process, problems encountered, or solutions to problems posted.

This course incorporates an experimental practical component into the Evolution of Language and Cognition MSc, which already has a computer simulation practical element in 'Simulating language'. In this way, the two areas of expertise for which the Language and Evolution and Computation unit at Edinburgh is internationally recognized are fully covered in this MSc programme.

W1. Lecture: Introduction to the course: principles of iterated experiment design and data analysis. Assignment of groups to projects

W2. Presentation of target papers by the groups

W3. Lecture: Introduction to experimental software. Ethics monitoring

W4. Class workshop: Preparation of experiment documentation, stimuli, experimental procedures and analyses

W5. Lab sessions

W6. Lab sessions

W7. Presentation of results by the groups

W8. Lecture: Writing up an experimental report

W9. Oral presentation of projects by the groups
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2015/16, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 18, Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 79 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Continuous assessment: Blog posts (40%). Research report - 1500 words (60%)

Research Report Deadline: 12 noon, Thursday 31st March 2016
Return Date: 22nd April 2016
Feedback Comments provided on submitted assessments
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. design an empirical test for a research hypothesis
  2. write some experimental code
  3. prepare experimental stimuli
  4. run experimental participants and complete statistical analysis of experimental results
  5. write up a research report
Reading List
Bartlett, F.C. (1932). Remembering: A Study in Experimental and Social Psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (Selected sections)

Esper, E.A. (1925). A technique for the experimental investigation of associative interference in artificial linguistic material. Philadelphia: Linguistic Society of America.

Fay, N., Garrod S. Roberts, L. & Swoboda N. (2010) The interactive evolution of human communicative systems. Cognitive Science, 34, 351-386.

Garrod, S., Fay, N., Leed, J. Oberlander, J., MacLeod, T. (2007). Foundations of Representation: Where Might Graphical Symbol Systems Come From? Cognitive Science, 31, 961-987.

Kirby, S., Cornish, H., and Smith, K. (2008). Cumulative Cultural Evolution in the Laboratory: an experimental approach to the origins of structure in human language. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 105(31):10681-10686.

Smith, K., & Wonnacott, E. (2010). Eliminating unpredictable variation through iterated learning. Cognition, 116, 444-449.

Theisen, C.A., Oberlander, J., and Kirby, S. [2010] Systematicity and arbitrariness in novel communication systems. Interaction Studies, 11, 14-32.

Verhoef, T.(2012)The origins of duality of patterning in artificial whistled languages.Language and Cognition 4(4), 357-380.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students will obtain first-hand experience with all aspects of running language evolution experiments including:
- Critical reading of experimental papers
- Experimental data collection
- Experience with experimental software
- Statistical analysis of results
- Oral presentation of own and others' work
- Report writing
Additional Class Delivery Information Attend all lectures and labs as scheduled
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Simon Kirby
Tel: (0131 6)50 3494
Course secretaryMiss Toni Noble
Tel: (0131 6)51 3188
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information
© Copyright 2015 The University of Edinburgh - 18 January 2016 4:15 am