Word meanings across languages support efficient communication
- Terry Regier (University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, USA)
A central question in the language sciences is why languages have the semantic categories they do, and what those categories reveal about cognition and communication. Word meanings vary widely across languages, but this variation is constrained. I will argue that this pattern reflects a range of language-specific solutions to a universal functional challenge: that of communicating precisely while using minimal cognitive resources. I will present a general computational framework that instantiates this idea, and will show how that framework accounts for cross-language variation in several semantic domains, including color, spatial relations, kinship, and number.