Linguistics and English Language

Language evolution

Origins and evolution of language and communication; Centre for Language Evolution

The language evolution and computation group is now the Centre for Language Evolution.

Centre for Language Evolution website

We focus on understanding the origins and evolution of language and communication. We have pioneered the application of computational and mathematical modelling techniques to traditional issues in language acquisition, change and evolution. More recently, we have developed new experimental methodologies that allow us to extend our models to real human populations. The overall goal is to develop a theory of language as a complex adaptive system operating on multiple time-scales.


Staff who work in this area include:

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Research interests

Dr Richard Blythe


Word learning under uncertainty
Dr Jennifer Culbertson How languages are shaped by learning and use (in children and adults); typological universals; artificial language learning

Professor Jim Hurford


Articulatory phonetics; numeral systems; evolution of language; language in social groups
Professor Simon Kirby Origins and evolution of language; cultural evolution; bridging scientific and artistic practice

Dr Marieke Schouwstra

Evolution of language; natural language semantics; philosophy of language; psycholinguistics; tense and aspect; philosophy of mind

Dr Kenny Smith Experimental models of cultural evolution; biological evolution of language learning biases/strategies; cross-situational learning

Postgraduate study

MSc Evolution of Language and Cognition

PhD and MSc by Research programmes


Members of the Centre for Language Evolution meet regularly to discuss research, papers, and work in progress.

Language evolution research seminars