Simulating Grice: Emergent Pragmatics in Spatialized Game Theory

In Anton Benz, Christian Ebert & Robert van Rooij (eds.), Language, Games, and Evolution. Springer-Verlag (2011)
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Abstract

How do conventions of communication emerge? How do sounds or gestures take on a semantic meaning, and how do pragmatic conventions emerge regarding the passing of adequate, reliable, and relevant information? My colleagues and I have attempted in earlier work to extend spatialized game theory to questions of semantics. Agent-based simulations indicate that simple signaling systems emerge fairly naturally on the basis of individual information maximization in environments of wandering food sources and predators. Simple signaling emerges by means of any of various forms of updating on the behavior of immediate neighbors: imitation, localized genetic algorithms, and partial training in neural nets. Here the goal is to apply similar techniques to questions of pragmatics. The motivating idea is the same: the idea that important aspects of pragmatics, like important aspects of semantics, may fall out as a natural results of information maximization in informational networks. The attempt below is to simulate fundamental elements of the Gricean picture: in particular, to show within networks of very simple agents the emergence of behavior in accord with the Gricean maxims. What these simulations suggest is that important features of pragmatics, like important aspects of semantics, don't have to be added in a theory of informational networks. They come for free.

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Patrick Grim
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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