Talk by Dan Dediu at the University of Barcelona

We are very much looking forward to a guest talk by Dan Dediu from the Laboratoire Dynamique Du Langage (DDL) and the Université Lumière Lyon 2 (Lyon, France), who has followed our invitation to visit us at the University of Barcelona.

Title: Language is affected by many non-linguistic things (biology included)

When? Monday, December 3, 17:00

Where? Sala G. Oliver (Josep Carner building, Plaça Universitat)

Who can come? Entrance is free and anyone who is interested is welcome to join. In particular, the talk will be directed to the community of cognitive science researchers in Barcelona.

What is it about? Check out the abstract below!

I will argue here that language is affected in many ways by many things outside language “proper”. I will begin by reviewing very briefly some of the best-known proposals out there (just to build a common ground and feeling for the broad range of linguistic aspects covered), but then I will focus on some of my own work. First, I will discuss recently published work with Chris Bentz, Annemarie Verkerk and Gerhard Jäger using phylogenetic methods, which shows that environmental factors (such as geography and climate) affect the processes governing language spread and differentiation. Then I will move on to the anatomy of the vocal tract where I will highlight work with Scott Moisik and Rick Janssen using a variety of methods (computer simulations, experiments, anthropological data) that suggests that variation in the anatomy might affect the distribution of phonetic and phonological diversity; I will describe the effects of larynx height and hard palate shape on vowel production, of the anterior part of the oral tract on clicks and of the palate on the articulation of the North American English /r/. Finally, I will sketch ongoing work with the Dutch Twin Registry at VU Amsterdam, MPI Nijmegen/The Cognomics Project, Scott Moisik, and your own Cedric Boeckx and Pedro Tiago Martins on the genetic foundations of normal vocal tract variation. I hope to convince you that, when looking at properties of language and their cross-linguistic distribution, we must at least consider non-external forces, especially inter-individual and inter-group variation, as potential explanatory factors to be included in our models and theories.