Cognitive biases and conformity in the acquisition of word order
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Gomez Gutierrez, Eduardo
The distribution of typological patterns across languages has occupied considerable space in recent scientific literature in linguistics and cognitive science. A number of hypotheses has been proposed to explain why some combinations of linguistic features are widespread while others tend to remain restricted to a minority of languages. Some of those hypotheses focus on the human cognitive system as the source of those asymmetries in language typology. A study by Culbertson, Smolensky and Legendre (2012) has shown that cognitive biases in the learner may explain the distribution of word orders observed across languages today. The study reported here replicated Culbertson et al.'s experiment including a new group variable, showing that the behaviour of a majority within the group have some effect on learners. In doing so, it suggests that further research with better targeted manipulations may lead to more solid results, which in turn will provide support for those hypotheses that identify the cause of the typological asymmetries in historical processes.