WiSe 14/15: S-Language Change II: Linguistic Evolution and Evolutionary Linguistics
Ferdinand von Mengden
Speaking is unique to the humans species. But how did the capability of speaking and the practice of using language and the system behind it come into being in the first place? In short: how did ... read more
Speaking is unique to the humans species. But how did the capability of speaking and the practice of using language and the system behind it come into being in the first place? In short: how did human language emerge? Closely related to the question of the origin is the question of whether or to what extent 'language' is a cultural practice or a genetically inherent capacity.
It is the recently (re-)emerging field of Evolutionary Linguistics that attempts to approach these questions. When studying language, we can draw on actual usage of speaking, on attested written texts or on reconstructed pre-historic stages of language. But what does our knowledge of the history of a language, of patterns of language change or of the typological and genetic relatedness of languages reveal about the beginning and the early stages of human language?
The interest in the origin and the early stages of human language is shared not only by linguists, but also by anthropologists, by behavioural psychologists and by evolutionary biologists. In this seminar we will take a look at these different strands of research as well as at linguistic evidence. Some of the underlying questions will be: How are extant theories of evolution suitable for studying the evolution of language? To what extent will other disciplines that deal with mankind and its history be able to contribute to our understanding of the origin of language? And in what way will the evidence from attested instances of language change be representative of the early stages of human language?
Schein requirements are an essay, a short oral presentation in class as well as regular and active participation. The seminar starts in the first week of term. Students who are interested in the class, but cannot come in the first week, are kindly asked to notify me via email before the start of the lecture period.