Postgraduate Course: Language Evolution in the Lab (LASC11124)
|School||School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences
||College||College of Humanities and Social Science
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
||Availability||Not available to visiting students
|Summary||In 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.
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)
||Other requirements|| None
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2016/17, Not available to visiting students (SS1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Lecture Hours 18,
Feedback/Feedforward Hours 1,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||Press release, 1 side A4, 40% (mid semester)
Research report, 1500 words, 60% (end semester)
||Group discussion at all lectures; peer assessment exercise (after submission of assessment 1).
|No Exam Information
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- design an empirical test for a research hypothesis
- write some experimental code
- prepare experimental stimuli
- run experimental participants and complete statistical analysis of experimental results
- write up a research report
|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.  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.
|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
|Course organiser||Prof Simon Kirby
Tel: (0131 6)50 3494
|Course secretary||Miss Toni Noble
Tel: (0131 6)51 3188
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