Language Change and SA-OT. The case of sentential negation


  • Alessandro Lopopolo University of Amsterdam
  • Tamás Biró University of Amsterdam


Simulated Annealing for Optimality Theory (SA-OT) updates Optimality Theory by adding a model of performance to a theory of linguistic competence. Our aim is to show that SA-OT can contribute to language change simulations. Performance errors are considered to be one of the causes of variation and change. We have chosen to model the evolution of sentential negation (SN). The descriptive background adopts Jespersen's Cycle, according to which the evolution of sentential negation follows three main stages (1. pre-verbal, 2. discontinuous, and 3. post-verbal). Therefore, we advance a novel model for SN, based on SA-OT. It reproduces the three pure and the two observed mixed stages, whereas it correctly predicts the lack of an intermediate stage between 3 and 1. The success of the approach corroborates the computational, performance-based approach to the data. Finally, we employ the iterated learning paradigm to reproduce historical changes in a simulated corpus study. This enterprise turns out to be more dicult than one would naively believe.




How to Cite

Lopopolo, A., & Biró, T. (2011). Language Change and SA-OT. The case of sentential negation. Computational Linguistics in the Netherlands Journal, 1, 21–40. Retrieved from