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Seminar: Possible worlds - What evolutionary biologists can learn from language evolution

Australian National University, Evolution

Date: 10 September 2018

Seminar: Possible Worlds - What evolutionary biologists can learn from language evolution

Speaker: Professor Lindell BromhamMacroevolution & Macroecology Lab, Division of Ecology & Evolution, Research School of Biology, ANU

When: 14 September 2018, 3.30pm-5.00pm

Where: Basham Room, Baldessin Building, ANU


There has been a long history of intellectual exchange between biologists and linguists, but much of the recent focus has been on analytical tools developed by evolutionary biologists that may be useful for studying language evolution. In this talk, I would like to take a different perspective, considering the intellectual clarity that evolutionary biologists can gain from learning about a non-genetic evolutionary system such as language evolution. Contemplating the similarities and differences between language and genetic evolution helps us to consider the possible impact of challenging fundamental assumptions about evolution, such as the randomness of mutation. Language evolution also helps us to challenge some common assumptions in evolutionary biology, for example that complexity must be adaptive. Furthermore, language evolution helps us to ask which aspects of evolution might need to be revised in light of new understanding of evolutionary processes, such as the role of horizontal transfer of variation.

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