Workshops

In addition to the general session, EVOLANG XII will host a number of thematically focused, half-day workshops from 09:00 to 13:45 on 16 April.
 

The Origins And Evolution Of Word Order. A Multidisciplinary Workshop
Masha Fedzechkina1, Ramon Ferrer‐i‐Cancho2,
1 University of Arizona, USA; 2 Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Catalonia
[Call for papers - deadline: 22 December 2017]
Languages exhibit many diachronic and synchronic patterns whose origins have been fascinating researchers over decades. Language word order – the way languages order information within a sentence – is perhaps one of the most intriguing of such patterns as it has been at the center of fundamental debates in a variety of areas of language evolution. How did word order evolve? What are the common orders for initial stages of language evolution and what are the typical paths of word order change? What is the nature of constraints on word order in human languages? What might cross-species comparisons tell us about word order patterns in human languages? In this workshop, we aim to offer a global perspective on fundamental questions on word order evolution spanning from early stages of the evolution of communication to present day languages with no constraint on the modality or the species. We invite researchers from different fields to join us in such integrative effort.

 

Modality Matters
Hannah Little, Ashley Micklos
Language and Cognition Department, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics
[Call for Papers - deadline: 22 December 2017]
Modality (the mode in which language is expressed) is a fundamental topic within language evolution. Most notably, modality is at the centre of the debate of whether language emerged originally as gesture-first, speech-first, or multimodal from the start. Further, the affordances provided to users of existing communication systems are modality-dependent. Modality can affect how language is grounded, transmitted and used in interaction and, as a result, feeds into the language evolution debate at every level. Despite this, much work in evolutionary linguistics, especially in the domain of models and artificial language experiments, tends to extrapolate results from only one modality to language generally. In this workshop, we stress that in order to justify doing this extrapolation, we need to first fully understand the role of modality in linguistic emergence.

 

What Is Compositional about Language, and Can We Find Compositionality in the Communication of Other Species?
Linda Scheider1, Katja Liebal1, Wendy Sandler2
1 Department of Education and Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany; 2 Sign Language Research Lab, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel
One of the most distinctive and powerful characteristics of human language is compositionality: the ability to create and interpret complex expressions in terms of their meaningful parts and the ways in which they combine. How did this property of language evolve?  Can we find clues to this question by comparing various forms of human language with animal communication? In this workshop we will bring together relevant researchers from different disciplines -- linguistics, gesture, sign languages, evolutionary biology, and those investigating the communication of species other than humans -- in order to get a broader picture of the state of art in this research area​.
 

 

The ‘stuff’ of language: how should archaeology inform language origins studies?
Cory Marie Stade
Centre for the Archaeology of Human Origins, University of Southampton
[Call for Papers - deadline: 30 November 2017]
This workshop invites both archaeologists interested in how language evolved, and evolutionary linguists interested in the material culture of early humans. Its goal is to establish the importance of archaeology to language evolution studies, and to articulate what information it does, or can, provide to the field of language evolution. This will culminate in a joint paper to be submitted to the Journal of Language Evolution, to which attendees will be invited to contribute. In a series of short presentations, researchers will share their archaeological research which they feel has potential to inform questions concerning the origins of language. Discussions will follow where workshop attendees can consider how to investigate or further articulate those implications, including collaboration with evolutionary linguists. The workshop is designed as a networking platform to bring together people from both fields, and to encourage cross-disciplinary discussion and the sharing of fresh research.

 

Self-domestication and language evolution
Constantina Theofanopoulou1, 2, 3
1 Section of General Linguistics, Universitat de Barcelona;  2 Universitat de Barcelona Institute for Complex Systems; 3 Laboratory of Neurogenetics of Language, Rockefeller University
It has long been thought that the kind of social interaction modern humans display should have been a key feature in the evolution of language. At the same time, our increased prosociality has independently been hypothesized to be very similar to the one we witness in domesticated species, and recent findings coming from paleoarchaeology and paleogenomics to genetics and animal behavior still lend more support to this idea. The aim of this workshop is to bring together scientists studying the topic of (self-)domestication from different perspectives and trigger an interdisciplinary dialogue with (self-)domestication and language as an axis. For this to be accomplished, this workshop will host scientists working on topics ranging from animal behavior to genetics and (paleo-)genomics.

 

Artificial Grammar Learning: implications of domain, modality and species differences.
Elisabetta Versace1, Michelle Spierings2
1 Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento (Italy); 2 Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna (Austria)
Detecting regularities in the world allows individuals to make sense of the countless inputs they are exposed to, and to generalize to new contexts and stimuli. This poses interesting parallels between the processing of linguistic and non-linguistic stimuli. The Artificial Grammar Learning approach has spiked research in this area on a wide range of abilities, developmental stages and species from acoustic modality in neonates and songbirds to visual pattern generalization in domestic chicks. In this workshop, we will discuss the recent developments and advancements in the field of Artificial Grammar Learning and its implication for the study of language. By bringing together researchers from many different disciplines, we present an interactive, interdisciplinary workshop that will pave the way for future collaborations and renewing work on the learning abilities across the animal kingdom.

 

 

In addition to the 16th April workshops, a number of unofficial satellite events will be held 15 April 2018, at the Faculty of Languages NCU (Collegium Humanisticum, Bojarskiego 1, Torun), including a special thematic session of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.