Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Robot Pidgins

"Australian scientists have invented a new breed of robots called Lingodroids, programmed to make, use, and share language."

Discover magazine, September 2011

According to the article, Lingodroids are programmed with an alphabet of beeps and are able to pair the beeps (or letters) to form syllables. These syllables can then be combined to form words.

It is through game play that words are created.

In one of the games mentioned, two Lingodroids meet in an unfamiliar place. One of the Lingodroids creates a name for the place and shares that name with the other. The other Lingodroid then adds the place name to its lexicon.

From my interpretation of the article, all Lingodroids are equipped with the same phonetic abilities but they do not start out with any lexicon, let alone a shared one. It is through contact that they build individual and shared lexicons.

In this way, the language resembles a pidgin. However, with a true pidgin, each speaker enters the contact situation with a native lexicon.

I wonder what would happen if two Lingodroids with a shared lexicon ran into two other Lingodroids with a different shared lexicon. Would it be the start of a creole?

Please note: There is a difference between pigeons and pidgins, despite the intentionally homophonous illustration (sorry, I couldn't resist).

Pidgin language (origin in Engl. word `business'?) is nobody's native language; may arise when two speakers of different languages with no common language try to have a makeshift conversation. Lexicon usually comes from one language, structure often from the other. Because of colonialism, slavery etc. the prestige of Pidgin languages is very low. Many pidgins are `contact vernaculars', may only exist for one speech event.

Creole (orig. person of European descent born and raised in a tropical colony) is a language that was originally a pidgin but has become nativized, i.e. a community of speakers claims it as their first language. Next used to designate the language(s) of people of Caribbean and African descent in colonial and ex-colonial countries (Jamaica, Haiti, Mauritius, RĂ©union, Hawaii, Pitcairn, etc.)

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