Language change: diversity and directionality

For the last lecture of the semester (30th November) we will have a talk by Nik Gisborne. He will be talking about language change, with the following abstract:

Why are human languages so diverse when humans must all have the same cognitive structures, and the same communicative needs? Where does the diversity come from? And what do we make of the fact that language change often appears to be directional? How is it that we can see general trends in how languages change?

In this talk, I discuss some joint work I’m doing with Rob Truswell which sets out to explain why the Indo-European languages, and some other languages in the same geographical area, have relative pro-forms (such as the who in I dislike the man who stole the election), when these proforms are very rare cross-linguistically. Along the way, I’ll speculate wildly about language acquisition, language contact, and the sources of directionality in language change. The main claim will be that small changes in the lexical specifications of words can lead to apparently big diachronic processes.

Free entry for members, £2 for non-members.

Everyone is welcome to join us at the pub afterwards!

18:00 doors for an 18:15 start.



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