I am a Teaching Fellow in Language Evolution and Acquisition based in the department of Linguistics and English Language in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. I was previously a Postdoctoral Researcher at the Australian National University working in the Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language, supervised by Prof. Kim Sterelny, and before this I was a PhD candidate in the Centre for Language Evolution at the University of Edinburgh, supervised by Prof. Simon Kirby and Prof. Kenny Smith. I also have a BA (Hons 1st class) in Turkish & Linguistics from SOAS, University of London and an MSc (Distinction) in the Evolution of Language and Cognition from the University of Edinburgh.
My professional experience includes time spent in ESL teaching (2005-present: Spain, Turkey, UK), IT technical support (1999-2003: UK, USA), running a bar (2003-2005: Spain) and brief stints at attempting to be a viniculturist in northern California and an astrophysics student in Edinburgh.
I speak Turkish, Spanish, French, and Python.
I am interested in how cultural processes contribute to the evolution of linguistic structure and conventions. My general approach is to 1) identify a minimal framework to describe different aspects of language and then 2) determine the minimal requirements - cognitive and social - required for their emergence. For example, I have looked at how populations of learning agents develop signalling systems, and how those signalling systems take on both simple and more complex structures.
Much of this involves the direct comparison of models from several disciplines, including evolutionary linguistics, artificial life, evolutionary game theory and economics. To this end, I primarily use agent-based modelling (typically involving an exemplar-theoretic methodology). This is supported - and heavily influenced - by mathematical tools borrowed from information theory.
I am also interested in empirical applications of the above, particularly in the quantification of structural complexity of both experimental and natural language data.
Spike, M. (2020). Fifty shades of grue: Indeterminate categories and induction in and out of the language sciences, Linguistic Typology , 24(3), 465-488. preprint
Roberts, S. G., Killin, A., Deb, A., Sheard, C., Greenhill, S. J., Sinnemäki, K., ... Spike, M.,... & Jordan, F. (2020). CHIELD: the causal hypotheses in evolutionary linguistics database. Journal of language evolution, 5(2), 101-120. preprint
Cross, M., Lumsden, A., & Spike, M. (2020). The co-evolution of communication and cooperation: Lewis signalling games in social dilemma scenarios. In Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on the Evolution of Language. link
Huggett, E., Peña, P., Sulik, J., & Spike, M. The effects of interaction on establishing common ground in communication. In Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on the Evolution of Language. link
Spike, M. (2018). The evolution of linguistic rules. Biology & Philosophy, 32(6), 887-904. preprint
Spike, M (2017) Minimal requirements for the cultural evolution of language. PhD Thesis, University of Edinburgh. link
Spike, M. (2017) Population size, learning, and innovation determine linguistic omplexity. Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society link
Spike, M., Stadler, K., Kirby, S. & Smith, K. - Minimal Requirements for the Emergence of Learned Signalling. Cognitive Science (2016) link
Spike, M., Stadler, K., Kirby, S. & Smith, K. (2014) Minimal Requirements for the Emergence of Learned Signalling. In E. Cartmill, S. Roberts, H. Lyn, H. Cornish (Eds.) The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 10th international conference (EvoLangX) World Scientific.
Spike, M., Stadler, K., Kirby, S. & Smith, K. (2013) Learning, Feedback and Information in Self-Organizing Communication Systems. In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, N. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Eds.), Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society (pp. 3442-3447). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
Spike, M. (2012) Modelling the Evolution of Communication Systems—Learning, Exemplars and Pólya Urns. MSc thesis, University of Edinburgh.
Spike, M., Kirby, S. & Smith, K. (in preparation) The information dynamics of signalling games.
Turner, C., Spike, M., & Magrath, R. (in preparation). Reliability in the Evolution of Eavesdropping on Heterospecific Alarm Calls.
Spike, M. (in preparation) Evolutionary dynamics of linguistic complexity: social structure, innovation, and stability.
Spike, M. (in preparation) The information dynamics of signalling games.
Spike, M., Ferdinand, V. (in preparation) Linguistic regularisation and speaker predictability.
Spike, M., Kirby, S., Smith, K. (in preparation) Duality of patterning: robustness, noise, and expressivity.
Spike, M. (in preparation) The emergence of signalling with referential uncertainty: cross-situational learning strategies
Information Dynamics in Learned Referential Signalling Games (2016) talk given at The Twenty-Fifth Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association, Atlanta, Georgia paper
The Evolution of Linguistic Rules (2016): invited talk given at the Evolution of Language Workshop, ANU
Rules and randomness: recognising and measuring linguistic structure and complexity (2016) talk given at the Australian Association of Philosophy 2016 Conference, Monash Unversity, Melbourne
Minimal pressures leading to duality of patterning (2016) talk given at the 11th Evolution of Langauge Conference, New Orleans
(with Vanessa Ferdinand) Word learners regularise synonyms and homonyms similarly (2016) talk given at the 11th Evolution of Langauge Conference, New Orleans
Information Dynamics of Learned Signalling Games (2016) poster presented at the 11th Evolution of Langauge Conference, New Orleans
Rules and randomness: recognising and measuring the emergence of structure (2015) talk given at LEC seminar series, University of Edinburgh.
(Don’t) zip it: no short-cut to quantifying linguistic structure & complexity? (2014) talk given at Edinburgh University Post-Graduate Conference in Linguistics.
Lost in Transmission? The information dynamics of signalling games (2014) talk given at LEC seminar series, University of Edinburgh.
What can linguistic convention tell us about the cultural evolution of language? (2013) talk given at LEC seminar series, University of Edinburgh.
2016 Transdisciplinary and Innovation Grant, CoEDL
My PhD and MSc were supported by an ESRC 1+3 studentship.
2018-present School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh:
Course Organiser and Lecturer:
Origins and Evolution of Language (nominated for EUSA ‘Outstanding Course’ award)
Language Evolution in the Lab
Current Issues in Language Evolution
Introduction to Cognitive Science,
First Language Acquisition
Foundations of Evolution
Language Evolution in the Lab
Introduction to Language Research
Psychology of Language Learning,
Current Issues in Language Evolution,
Research Methods in Developmental Linguistics.
From the summer 2020, I have also provided technical and administrative support to the Speech and Language Processing MSc. This has involved:
Liaising between the SLP teaching team, PPLS IS, and students to organise, test, and set up remote working technology to replicate physical labs.
Organising the creation of a Virtual Machine (VM) and Remote Desktop access to the physical labs, and then testing and supervising the delivery of these technologies to the incoming students, as well as providing ongoing student support for these solutions.
Organising the tutorial schedule for students on the CPSLP and SLP courses, requiring the timetabling of online sessions for students and tutors across 20 different time-zones.
Administering the delivery of online programming labs for the Introduction to Cognitive Science and First Language Acquisition courses.
2016-2018 Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language Australian National University:
Lecturer and course design for a new course,‘Computational approaches to language’ for the department of linguistics;
Teaching the PhD foundations seminar series ‘philosophical topics in linguistics’ for the department of philosophy;
Guest lecturer on Bethwyn Evans’ historical linguistics honours/masters course.
2012-2015 School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh:
Tutoring on several pre-honours courses: Linguistics and English Language 1 (LEL1), Linguistic Theory and the Structure of English (LEL2a), and Cross-Linguistic Variation: Limits and Theories (LEL2d).
Lab demonstrator on the honours/MSc course Simulating Language.
In 2014/2015 I was nominated for two EUSA teaching awards.
I have also worked as a CELTA-qualified English language instructor since 2005.
My mother is author, journalist, translator and academic Maureen Freely; my father is author, journalist and editor Paul Spike; my grandfather is physicist, historian and travel writer John Freely; my late grandfather was theologian and civil rights leader Robert W. Spike.