8th International Conference on the Evolution of Language


In conjunction with Evolang 8, four workshops will be organized on Wednesday April 14th, 2010. The workshops permit more indepth investigation of special topics. The topics of the workshops are as follows:

  1. The Biological Basis of Cerebral Dominance
  2. The evolution of semantic structure
  3. Birdsong and the evolution of speech
  4. Models of Language Evolution - Does the Math Add Up?

The workshops each have their own selection procedure. As a general policy, we request that speakers submit at most one abstract/paper for the workshops. This has to be a different paper from any abstract submitted for the main conference.

Registration for the workshops is through the registration pages of the general conference; note that registration for the main conference is required.

The Biological Basis of Cerebral Dominance

Workshop organizer: Tim Crow (University of Oxford, UK)


10.00-10.10Introduction: Tim Crow
10.10-10.40Anatomical asymmetry and its measurement Neil Roberts (University of Edinburgh)
11.00-11.30Language at the level of the cell Steven Chance (University of Oxford)
11.30-12.00When did handedness enter the hominin lineage? Natalie Uomini (University of Liverpool)
12.00-12.30What Ferdinand de Saussure & Noam Chomsky have to gain from Paul Broca & Pierre Gratiolet; the 4 quadrant theory Tim Crow (SANE POWIC University of Oxford)
14.00-14.30How words are lateralised in the human brain Hubertus Lohmann (University of Muenster)
14.30-15.00The balloon model of lateralisation Lee Seldon (Swinburne University, Melbourne)
15.00-15.30The sexual dimorphism that drives human language Tim Crow
15.30-16.00General discussion

Workshop objectives:
The contributors to the workshop will discuss the concept of cerebral dominance, and current evidence on its biological basis and its relationship to language. Neil Roberts will discuss the historical origins of the conceptand methods of measuring it anatomical correlates. Simon Keller will present new data on the controversial question of whether Broca's area is anatomically asymmetrical in man and the chimpanzee. Iris Sommer will describe how functional neuroimaging is used to investigate the lateralisation of words and sentences, And Steven Chance will give an overview of the anatomical basis of asymmetry at the level of the neurone. Tim Crow will present the critique of genetic series of lateralisation with particular emphasis on the Protocadherin 11 XY gene pair in Homo sapiens specificblock of homology between the long arm of the X chromosome to the short arm of the Y chromosome that was established by a duplication 6 million years ago.

Since many of these talks touch on issues that have been controversial in the literature speakers will be required to leave ample time for discussion following each talk. Contributions from the floor are welcome.

Workshop 'Evolution of semantic structure'

Workshop organized as part of Evolang 8 at Utrecht University, see: http://evolang2010.nl/

Workshop organizers: Henriëtte de Swart (Utrecht University) and Marieke Schouwstra (Utrecht University)

Invited speaker: Jim Hurford (Edinburgh)

Language is used to communicate thoughts. And the thoughts that are communicated in modern human language are quite sophisticated. How did this come about? What do the semantic structures we express in our languages have to do with the cognitive structures we have in our minds? And what is the evolutionary history of these structures? In this workshop, our aim is to find answers to these questions, based on data or models from various disciplines, including linguistics, cognitive science, philosophy and computer science. We invite 2-page abstracts fitting in with the general theme of 'the evolution of semantic structure'. We intend to collect papers into a special issue for a journal.


Wednesday April 14, 2010
10-10.15 opening (Henriëtte de Swart)
10.15-11.15 Jim Hurford (Edinburgh University) Meaning before and after language
11.15-11.45 coffee
11.45-12.20 Michael Crombach (Austria): 'Be-boxes'
12.20-12.55 Erkki Luuk (University of Tartu): On the origins of linguistic predicate/argument structure
12.55-13.30 Seija Kerttula (University of Helsinki): Tracing the evolution of semantic categorisation with corpus studies
13.30-14.30 lunch
14.30-15.05 Robert van Rooij (Amsterdam University) On concepts, trees and reasoning
15.05-15.30 Michael Spranger, Martin Loetzsch & Simon Pauw (Sony Computer Science Laboratory, Paris/Artificial Intelligence Laboratory Brussels): Evolving semantic structure in populations of humanoid robots
15-15.30 tea
15.30-16.05 Brian Bayly (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute): An internal reward from matching influences evolution of semantic structure
16.05-16.40 Marieke Schouwstra, Mónica Tamariz, Simon Kirby (Utrecht University, University of Edinburgh): Semantic structure in a novel communication task

Important dates

  • Sunday 31 Jan 2010 (passed): deadline for workshop submissions
  • Sunday 14 Feb 2010 (passed): notification of acceptance
  • Wednesday 14 April 2010: workshop
  • June 2010: deadline for special issue submissions

Models of Language Evolution - Does the Math Add Up?

Workshop organizers: Bart de Boer (University of Amsterdam) and Willem Zuidema (University of Amsterdam)

The last decade has seen an explosion of interest in mathematical and computational models of language evolution. Formal modelling is seen by increasingly many in the field as an approach to ensure internal consistency of evolutionary scenarios. However, there has been relatively little attention to the question of how well the many different models fit together. Are they consistent with and complementary to each other? Is there a series of models that really covers the evolutionary emergence of modern language from a prelinguistic, ancestral state? Are the assumptions that go into a particular model, if not justified by empirical findings, made plausible by results from other models? This workshop will bring together the main researchers in the field of language evolution modelling to discuss the assumptions that go into their models, the place of these models in scenarios of language origins and the relation to other models. A position paper is provided by the organizers of the workshop. Although contributions on the evolution of all aspects of language will be acceptable, and papers that contain experimental or modeling data are preferred, contributions will need to explicitly discuss the issues raised in this position paper.

The position paper and workshop proceedings can be found at the workshop's webpage: http://staff.science.uva.nl/~jzuidema/mole2010/


Wednesday April 14, 2010
10h00 welcome & general introduction
10h20 Tao Gong (Linguistics, MPI/Leipzig)
10h55 Joachim de Beule (Artificial Intelligence, ULB/Brussel)
11h30 Martin Bachwerk & Carl Vogel (Computational Linguistics, Trinity College/Dublin)
12h05 coffee break
12h20 Garrett Mitchener (Mathematics, Charleston College/SC)
12h55 Michael Franke (Linguistics, U. of Tuebingen)
13h30 lunch break
14h30 Dan Dediu (MPI/Nijmegen)
15h05 Monojit Choudhury (Microsoft Research, Bangalore) & Animesh Mukherjee (ISI, Turin)
15h40 coffee break
15h55 Michael Arbib (Computer Science/Neuroscience, U. of Southern California/L.A.)
16h30 general discussion
16h55 round up

Important dates

  • Sunday 7 Feb 2010 (passed): deadline for workshop submissions
  • Sunday 14 Feb 2010 (passed): notification of acceptance
  • Wednesday 14 April 2010: workshop
  • June 2010: deadline for special issue submissions

Birdsong/animal communication and the evolution of speech

Workshop organizers: Martin Everaert (Utrecht University) and Johan Bolhuis (Utrecht University)

One way of understanding evolutionary aspects of the language faculty is comparing the languages/ communication systems of human and non-human animals. In this search mammals are usually preferred to birds as model systems, because of their closer evolutionary relatedness to humans. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that there are homologies and analogies between the avian and mammalian brain and studies have shown that birds have cognitive capacities that were thought to be the preserve of primates. Unlike non-human primates certain marine mammals, parrots, hummingbirds and songbirds share with humans the capacity for vocal imitation. And it is commonly thought that recursiveness is a crucial feature of human language, that is not found in animals. Recently, it has been found that European starlings can learn to discriminate certain patterns of starling vocalisations. It was suggested that this discriminative ability may be explained in terms of recognition of recursiveness. If that is the case, these results would cast new light on the evolution of language.

The aim of this workshop is to explore the cognitive and neural similarities between birdsong/animal communication systems and human language, and whether they inform us on the evolution of language?

Submissions (abstracts of max 2 pages) can be sent to:
Martin Everaert

Programme Birdsong/Animal Communication and the Evolution of Speech

Wednesday April 14, 2010

9.45 - 10.00

Coffee & Welcome


Johan Bolhuis (Utrecht): Brain mechanisms of cognition and behaviour: Birdsong & Human Speech


Song auditory representation in female birds: Does gene expression code phonology or sequence?: Yoko Kato, Masaki Kato, Toshikazu Hasegawa, Kazuo Okanoya (Tokyo, RIKEN, Keio


coffee/tea break


Social attention. song learning and Brain development in birds: L. Henry, H. Cousillas, A. Bertin, I. George, M. Hausberger. (Rennes)


Kazuo Okanoya (RIKEN): tba




A perceptual bias for universal speech sounds: S. ter Haar, C. ten Cate, C. Levelt (Leiden)


Developmental differentiation in infant cry: private and universal features reflect protolinguistic properties: Yulri Nonaka, Jean-Julien Aucouturier, Kentaro Katahira, Kazuo Okanoya (RIKEN, Temple, ERATO)


Vocal tract articulation: another parallel between humans and birds?: V. Ohms, P. Snelderwaard, G. Beckers, C. ten Cate (Leiden/MPI Seewiesen)


tea/coffee break


Tecumseh Fitch: Concluding remarks & general discussion

Important dates (provisional)

  • Sunday 24 Jan 2010 (passed): deadline for workshop submissions
  • Sunday 14 Feb 2010 (passed): notification of acceptance
  • Wednesday 14 April 2010: workshop