About

My overarching interest is to use a combination of traditional psychological experiments, innovative experimental games, agent-based models, and natural data (usually language corpora) to investigate the evolution of social systems. I’m happy to correspond regarding my current and past research, email (ccuskley at gmail punto com) is the best way to reach me.

Below is a short overview of some of my research interests:

  • The emergence and dynamics of linguistic rules
  • The relationship between lexical and morphological stability and frequency
  • The role of interaction in grounding and establishing a communication system
  • The relationship between population (social and demographic) structure and linguistic structure
  • The role of iconicity and systematicity in language learnability, acquisition, and evolution
  • The potential for shared sensory biases to underlie sound symbolism and contribute to lexical structure

My postdoctoral work has focused primarily on the dynamics of rules in language, working with complex systems scientists at the University of Rome La Sapienza, Institute for Complex Systems (ISC-CNR, Rome), and the ISI (Turin). We completed a comprehensive study of the diachronic dynamics of the past tense of English, analytical and agent-based models which replicate the frequency/regularity dynamics observed in a corpus, and an experiment which examines different regularisation behaviour in native and non-native English speakers. Work in this area is ongoing, including a focus on agent-based models and an experimental approach addressing the role of social structure in shaping linguistic rules.

I completed my PhD at the University of Edinburgh, jointly supervised between the Language Evolution and Computation Unit in Linguistics (Prof. Simon Kirby) and the Synaesthesia and Sensory Integration Lab in Psychology (Prof. Julia Simner). My PhD work focused primarily on a sensory theory of protolanguage, proposing that at its emergence, the lexicon was non-arbitrary and cross-modally grounded. The bulk of my thesis focused on empirically documenting cross-modal associations between linguistic sound and other sensory modalities (including shape, taste, and motion), as well as a few corpus studies showing sensory-based non-arbitrariness in modern language. You can read the full abstract here.

My PhD followed on from my MSc work; in 2008 I completed an MSc in the Evolution of Language and Cognition (University of Edinburgh). My first degree is a B.A. in Psychology, which I completed at American University in 2005. During my time at Edinburgh (2007-2012), I was also involved in teaching, both tutoring for undergraduate linguistics and lecturing several courses for the Open Studies programme

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