The Recruitment Theory of Language Origins

Leo Meyerovich recently started a thread on LtU asking about Historical or sociological studies of programming language evolution?. I've been meaning to post a paper on this topic to LtU for awhile now, but simply cherrypicking for the opportune time to fit it into forum discussion. With Leo's question at hand, I give you an interesting paper that models language evolution, by artificial intelligence researcher Luc Steels. Steels has spent over 10 years researching this area, and his recent paper, The Recruitment Theory of Language Origins, summarizes one of his models for dealing with language evolution:

The recruitment theory of language origins argues that language users recruit and try out different strategies for solving the task of communication and retain those that maximise communicative success and cognitive economy. Each strategy requires specific cognitive neural mechanisms, which in themselves serve a wide range of purposes and therefore may have evolved or could be learned independently of language. The application of a strategy has an impact on the properties of the emergent language and this fixates the use of the strategy in the population. Although neurological evidence can be used to show that certain cognitive neural mechanisms are common to linguistic and non-linguistic tasks, this only shows that recruitment has happened, not why. To show the latter, we need models demonstrating that the recruitment of a particular strategy and hence the mechanisms to carry out this strategy lead to a better communication system. This paper gives concrete examples how such models can be built and shows the kinds of results that can be expected from them.

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Going from Java to Groovy

I've recently been thinking about this paper in the context of how programmers use the language Groovy, when coming from a Java background, after reading Jeremy Meyer's blog post Groovy AI Tic Tac Toe, where he noted:

Yes, [Groovy] integrates truly seamlessly with your Java code, meaning that your classes can extend Java classes, and operations that take Java objects will willingly take Groovy objects, if typed in the right way. And of course you can usually get away with just writing Java code [in the sense that Groovy's syntax and Java's syntax are designed to be very compatible]. But, and here's the rub. This makes your Groovy code non-idiomatic. The Groovy idioms are distinctly different and if you are going to embrace Groovy, it seems you will have to leave some Java habits behind.

What I was mainly wondering was, could we automatically predict idioms in a language, using something like a language evolution model? Artificial intelligence has been used to find new optimal moves in backgammon previously unknown despite centuries of expert backgammon strategy sharing and cross-pollination of ideas among the best backgammon experts. Likewise, we might find new idioms for languages that were never thought of before...

Link correction

I think that you mean Groovy AI tic-tac-toe. Thanks for the pointer—I was just trying to find a description of MENACE the other day.