Language Evolution

What makes language distinctly human?

Personal Chair of Language Evolution Simon Kirby on the influence of culture on language evolution

Human languages have complex structures relative to the gestures and sounds of other animals. Simon Kirby thinks that culture plays an important part in human language evolution.

Research by Simon and his colleagues at the Centre for Language Evolution suggests that language structure is a result of repeatedly using words to convey ideas across many generations.

Small changes appear asĀ language is passed from one speaker to another, and “the process snowballs” over generations in the culture. What initially was unstructured babel, then gradually becomes structured over time. And so, the complexity of language structure emerges from culture.

Find out more about Simon’s views and the evolution of language more generally:

Scientific American | Talking through Time

About Simon Kirby

Simon Kirby is Personal Chair of Language Evolution and Director of the Centre for Language Evolution at the University of Edinburgh. His research centres on the origins and evolution of language and also bridging scientific and artistic practice.

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