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SYNAPSE Zoom Seminar: Relatively Speaking, Fiona Jordan, 12 Oct

Australian National University, Outreach, SYNAPSE

Date: 29 September 2020

SYNAPSE Zoom Seminar: Relatively Speaking: THe Cultural Evolution of Kinship Diversity

Speaker: Prof Fiona Jordan,

When: 12 Oct 2020, 7pm-9pm (AEST)

Where: This is an online event and will be hosted via Zoom; Login details for the Zoom event will be included in your Eventbrite registration email

Registration via Eventbrite:


Kinship terminologies - the patterns of words languages have for denoting and referring to family members - are a striking opportunity for understanding the interplay of culture, language, and cognition. In this talk I will describe the VariKin project, a multidisciplinary approach to understand the patterned variation in human kinship systems. The project team brings together theory and method across anthropology, linguistics, evolutionary biology, and computational methods. I'll describe results from macro and micro-evolutionary studies of kin terms: large cross-cultural analyses using comparative phylogenetic methods, a new kinship morphospace approach to typologies, insights into kin-term borrowing, and work on children's acquisition and use of kinship language from both comparative corpora as well as fieldwork in a rural Datooga community in Tanzania, and urban Bristol.


Fiona Jordan is an evolutionary and linguistic anthropologist who studies cultural evolution. Like most anthropologists, she wants to understand cultural diversity. There are two parts to that inquiry: Why do humans–a single species–have so much variation in behaviour and culture? But: Why don’t human societies vary more? Her work seeks to do cross-cultural research in new and innovative ways by combining methods, data, and theory from biology, psychology, anthropology, and linguistics.

The event will be a public seminar and will be recorded.

This seminar is part of SYNAPSE: The CHL trans-disciplinary seminar series

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University