On the role of population heterogeneity in emergent communication

Populations have often been perceived as a structuring component for language to emerge and evolve: the larger the population, the more structured the language. While this observation is widespread in the sociolinguistic literature, it has not been consistently reproduced in computer simulations with neural agents. In this paper, we thus aim to clarify this apparent contradiction. We explore emergent language properties by varying agent population size in the speaker-listener Lewis Game. After reproducing the experimental difference, we challenge the simulation assumption that the agent community is homogeneous. We first investigate how speaker-listener asymmetry alters language structure to examine two potential diversity factors: training speed and network capacity. We first investigate how speaker-listener asymmetry alters language structure through the analysis a potential diversity factor: learning speed. We find out that emergent language properties are only altered by the relative difference of learning speeds between speaker and listener, and not by their absolute values. From then, we leverage this observation to control population heterogeneity without introducing confounding factors. We finally show that introducing such training speed heterogeneities naturally sort out the initial contradiction: larger simulated communities start developing more stable and structured languages.