Pieter Wellens

Pieter Wellens is a former member of the lab who is no longer affiliated with the VUB AI Lab.

My main research focus is on the emergence and evolution of grammar. According to the functional approach to language evolution (inspired by cognitive linguistics and construction grammar), grammar arises to deal with issues in communication among autonomous agents, particularly maximisation of communicative success and expressive power and minimisation of coginitive effort. My experiments in the emergence of grammar hence start from a simulation of communicative exchanges between embodied agents, and then show how a particular issue that arises can be solved or partially solved by processes of grammaticalisation.

In more detail I focus on the issue of search during parsing and interpretation. Multiple hypotheses arise in parsing when the same syntactic pattern can be used for multiple purposes or when one syntactic pattern partly overlaps with another one. At the AI-Lab we use two highly sophisticated tools for doing our experiments, semantic aspects are handled through grounded procedural semantic based on a constraint language called the Incremental Recruitment Language (IRL). Lexicon and grammar use the Fluid Construction Grammar framework (FCG). These frameworks are now combined into one which we call Babel 2.

Currently I am working on a new project, called APIC, revolving around gastronomy as cultural heritage. In this project we have developed a completely automated photo studio, the APIC.box, that takes pictures of a chef's creations with a single touch. Chefs can then choose to share those pictures on APIC.social, where everyone can discover the food images, chefs, and restaurants.




  • Invited speaker at the conference "Misunderstanding: Interdisciplinary perspectives", Amsterdam, Netherlands, May 2013. 
  • Invited speaker at the Modelling Emergent Norms workshop at the Interacting Minds Centre, Aarhus, Denmark, March 2013.
  • Workshop on the future of Fluid Construction Grammar and agent-based modelling at La Molina, Spain, February, 2013.
  • Participated in 4-day course on professtionalisation of academic teaching, Nieuwpoort, Belgium, January, 2013.


  • Presenter at the Workshop on Cognitive Mechanisms and Cultural Processes in Evolutionary Linguistics, Paris, 28-29 November 2012.
  • European Conference on Complex Systems at ULB (Brussels), 3-7 September 2012.
  • Research Day ay the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, 3 July 2012.
  • Two-month research visit at Sony Computer Science Lab (Paris), May and June 2012.
  • Public PhD Defense: Adaptive Strategies in the Emergence of Lexical Systems, Brussels, 21 December 2011.
  • Workshop on Socio-cognitive mechanisms of symbolic communication, Tillburg University, 26 January.


  • Private PhD Defense: Adaptive Strategies in the Emergence of Lexical Systems, Brussels, 21 December 2011.
  • Technical workshop on Fluid Construction Grammar, Barcelona, 27-30 November 2011.
  • Kevin presented our paper on the combinatorial Naming Game at BNAIC 2011, Gent, 3 November 2011.
  • Presenter at the Off-site Meeting with Sony CSL Paris in Sint-Martens-Voeren (Belgium), 20 - 22 April 2011.
  • ALEAR Final Review Meeting in Berlin (Germany), 1 April 2011.
  • Presenter at the Off-site Meeting with Sony CSL Paris in Morzine (France), 28 February - 4 March 2011.
  • Presenter at the workshop on The Future of Linguistics in Barcelona (Spain), 24- 26 January 2011.


  • Presenter at the Sixth International Conference on Construction Grammar (ICCG-6), Prague, 3-5 September.
  • Lecturer at the FCG Tutorial in Prague, 1-2 September.
  • FCG and IRL Workshop (VUB AI-Lab and Sony CSL Paris), Prague, Czech Republic, 30-31 August.
  • Two weeks research visit to Sony CSL Lab in Paris, France, 2-13 August.
  • Intense 3-day meeting on FCG book publication (VUB AI-Lab and Sony CSL), Paris, France, 5-8 July.
  • Presentation at the 8th Evolution of Language Conference (evolang 2010). Utrecht, The Netherlands, 14-17 April.
  • Gave a Pecha Kucha talk at Campustalks together with Katrien Beuls, Brussels, Belgium. 1 April.
  • Lecturer at IK 2010, Gunne, Germany. 12-19 March.
  • ALEAR workshop (VUB and Sony CSL partner) in Morzine, France. 27 Feb - 3 March.
  • IK Preparation Meeting in Paris (Sony CSL). 5 February.
  • FCG Meeting in Brussels VUB. 12-14 January.
  • ALEAR Meeting/Preparation for IK. Sony CSL Paris, 6-8 January.


  • ALEAR FCG/IRL Meeting VUB and Sony CSL Paris. Paris (France), 17-19 November.
  • Lecturer at the International Summer School on Embodied Language Games and Construction Grammar. Cortona, Tuscany (Italy), 29 August - 4 September.
  • The second European Lisp Symposium. Milan (Italy), 27-29 May.
  • Presented at the workshop on evolutionary linguistics and selectionism. Berlin (Germany), 5 - 7 May.
  • First annual review of the ALEAR project at Humboldt University. Berlin (Germany), 26 - 29 April.
  • Workshop on latest progress in Fluid Construction Grammar. Paris (France), 31 March - 1 April.
  • Off-site meeting VUB AI-Lab and Sony CSL in Morzine (France). Morzine (France), 23-28 January.


  • AI-Lab and Sony CSL workshop in Motzen (Germany) combined with a large ALEAR meeting in Berlin. Motzen and Berlin (Germany), 30 Oct. - 5 November.
  • Presented at the workshop on Cognitive and social foundations of grammaticalization in Bran (Romania), 9-12 September.
  • Participated in FCG Barcamp in Ellezelles (Belgium) from 30 June till 4 July. More info can be found here.
  • Paper presentation at the 7th Evolution of Language Conference (evolang 2008) Spain, Barcelona, 11-15 March 2008
  • One month research visit to Sony Computer Science Lab (CSL) in Paris, France. 04 Feb 2008 till 04 March 2008.


  • Presenting of final results at the The Origin of Man, Langugae and Languages (OMLL) Final Conference. Presenting project: The cultural self-organisation of cognitive grammar: Robotic and computational methods. Italy, Rome, 12-14 December 2007.
  • Attended the 9th European Conference on Artificial Life (ECAL 07). Lisbon, Portgual, 10-14 September 2007. 
  • Paper presentation at the workshop Social Learning in Embodied Agents (SLEA) 10 September 2007.
  • Coordinator of technical Atelier on Modeling Language Emergence at International School on Complexity. Statistical Physics of Social Dynamics: Opinions, Semiotic Dynamics, and Language.  Erice, Sicily, Italy, 14-19 July 2007.
  • Assistant Lecturer (for Prof. Steels) together with Remi van Trijp at the LOT Summerschool 2007. Leuven (Belgium), 11-15 June 2007.
  • Presentation at the 13th FCG & IRL (now called Babel) workshop Brussels (Belgium), 5-7 Februari 2007.