Netherlands, Nijmegen

Language Evolves! How Genes and Culture Lead to Homo Linguisticus

when 8 August 2016 - 12 August 2016
language English
duration 1 week
credits 2 ECTS
fee EUR 490

Language is essential and unique to humans but how did it evolve? Answering this question requires an understanding of language from a multi-disciplinary perspective. This course will specifically focus on genetic and evolutionary factors that have shaped the human capacity for language.

This course is organised by the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, the only institute in the world with a department dedicated to language genetics. You will learn about the links between genes, language and evolution from world-leading local and invited experts. This course represents a unique opportunity for those studying and researching all other areas of language and speech (e.g., psychology, linguistics, neurobiology) to learn about how genes and evolution fit into a wide interdisciplinary research in the language sciences and how these exciting areas might inform their understanding of language.

Lectures and course material will help you gain an understanding of the complex interactions between genes and language on multiple levels and time-scales, from how genes and their protein products shape and modulate brains, vocal tracts and hands of individual language users, to continent-wide correlations between the distribution of genetic markers and language families and gene-culture co-evolution, highlighting the unifying themes of evolution (biological and cultural) and variation (at the level of genes, individuals and languages). We will explore all of these, aiming to introduce the main concepts, methods and findings to a linguistically-oriented audience.

The programme will be a mix of lectures, interactive workshops and lab sessions allowing you to take part in cutting-edge scientific research currently conducted at the Max Planck Institute. Participants will be actively engaged in the topics during brainstorm sessions, small group assignments and participant presentations.

This course will be aimed at PhD level students but others with an interest in the language sciences are welcome to attend (Master’s students, post-doc’s, etc). No prior training in genetics or evolution is needed or expected.

Course leader

Dr. S. Vernes
Research Group Leader
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

Dr. D. Dediu
Senior Investigator
Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics

Target group

This course is aimed at people with an interest in the language sciences, being particularly beneficial to those who wish to embrace an interdisciplinary approach that includes genetics, and biological and cultural evolution. No prior knowledge of evolution or genetics is required.

Course aim

After this course you will be able to:
- Understand and discuss how and when language appeared and evolved
- Understand the links between genes and language
- Describe how genetics and evolution contribute to understanding language
- Understand genetic and linguistic diversities, their origins and inter-connections
- Identify hot topics and plan your own research involving genetics and evolution

Fee info

EUR 490: The course fee includes the registration fee, course materials, access to library and IT facilities, coffee/tea, lunch, and a number of social activities.

10% discount for early bird applicants. The early bird deadline is 1 April 2016.
15% discount for students and PhD candidates from Radboud University and partner universities.
EUR 195: Housing (optional)