19 - Language evolution art advent calendar

Language evolution in art installation

Sound installation explores the evolution of English words relating to light

Glimmer, gleam, glitter and glow. These are all English words beginning with ‘gl’ relating to light.

To explore the linguistic evolution of light words, Professor of Language Evolution Simon Kirby teamed up with local artists Tommy Pernan and Rob St John to create the sound installation ‘Sing the Gloaming‘.

It was part of the 24-hour art event ‘Sanctuary’ in Galloway Forest Dark Skies Park (23-24 September 2017).

Vocalisations of ‘light words’ were recorded on cassette tape loops. Placed in glowing sculptural objects, the recordings repeat throughout the night until the tape deck batteries drain, around dawn. Their spatial arrangement subtly maps the linguistic evolution of light words from the Proto-Indo-European “ghlei-“.

About Simon Kirby

Simon Kirby is the Professor of Langauge Evolution at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests include the origins and evolution of language and also bridging science and art practices

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