Discussion papers

CPM-00-66 - 2 May 2000

The Making of Meaning in Societies: Semiotic & Information-Theoretic Background to the Evolution of Communication

Chrystopher Nehaniv

A Paper at: The “Starting from Society” symposium at ASIB’2000 convention, Birmingham University, 16th-19th April 2000.

Also published as: Christopher Nehaniv (2000), “The Making of Meaning in Societies: Semiotic & INformation-Theoretic Background to the Evolution of Communication”, in the Proceedings of the AISB’00 Symposium on Starting from Society – the Application of Social Analogies to Computational Systems, Birmingham, UK: AISB, 73-84. (ISBN 1 902956 13 8)


We examine the notions of meaning and information for animals or agents engaged in interaction games. Concepts from cognitive ethology, linguistics, semiotics, and evolution are surveyed. Innateness, individual learning, and social aspects (social learning and cultural transmission) of the evolution of communication are treated. Studies on animals and agents showing degrees of communication are analyzed with an eye to describing what aspects of communication actually are demonstrated, or also in the case of many simulation studies, are built-in to the system at the outset. In particular, predication and constituent structure (subcategorization) have so far never been shown to emerge in robotic or software systems.