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Keywords:

  • language;
  • neural networks;
  • complex networks;
  • syntax;
  • network theory;
  • evolution;
  • phase transitions

Abstract

Human language is the key evolutionary innovation that makes humans different from other species. And yet, the fabric of language is tangled and all levels of description (from semantics to syntax) involve multiple layers of complexity. Recent work indicates that the global traits displayed by such levels can be analyzed in terms of networks of connected words. Here, we review the state of the art on language webs and their potential relevance to cognitive science. The emergence of syntax through language acquisition is used as a case study to illustrate how the approach can shed light into relevant questions concerning language organization and its evolution. © 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Complexity, 2010