M.Litt. in English Language and Linguistics

Evolutionary Linguistics

The last two decades has seen a resurgence in interest in evolutionary approaches to language on many levels and from multiple diverse perspectives. This module introduces students to this expanding and rapidly developing field and provide them with the opportunity and tools to study aspects of human language in an evolutionary context.

We will make use of evidence from a wide range of sources and disciplines, and will engage closely with recent research in the field, by considering topics such as, but not limited to: the evolution and origins of the human language faculty; the nature of linguistic communication and its relationship to animal communication; pre-requisites for language and the controversy around the notion of 'protolanguage'; grammaticalisation and the development of complexity in linguistic structure; the relationship between biological and cultural evolution; how evolutionary concepts such as replication, selection and adaptation can be profitably applied to language change.

The course builds upon material studied in Linguistic Structures and Linguistic Contexts, and complements other option modules in related areas, such as Historical Linguistics and the History of English and Language and Cognition.

Available as an option module in Spring 2016. Module convenor: Andrew Smith.