Journal :: Human Biology
Reconstructing the history of marriage strategies in Indo-European-speaking societies: monogamy and polygynydoi.orgPDF
Human biology 83(1):87--105, 2011
Abstract Explanations for the emergence of monogamous marriage have focused on the cross-cultural distribution of marriage strategies, thus failing to account for their history. In this paper I reconstruct the pattern of change in marriage strategies in the history of ...
Primate vocal communication: a useful tool for understanding human speech and language evolution?doi.org
Human Biology 83(2):153--173, 2011
Abstract Language is a uniquely human trait, and questions of how and why it evolved have been intriguing scientists for years. Nonhuman primates (primates) are our closest living relatives, and their behavior can be used to estimate the capacities of our extinct ...
Communication and the primate brain: insights from neuroimaging studies in humans, chimpanzees and macaquesdoi.org
Human Biology 83(2):175, 2011
Abstract Considerable knowledge is available on the neural substrates for speech and language from brain imaging studies in humans, but until recently there was a lack of data for comparison from other animal species on the evolutionarily conserved brain regions ...
Human Biology 83(2):191--212, 2011
Abstract Research into speech perception by nonhuman animals can be crucially informative in assessing whether specific perceptual phenomena in humans have evolved to decode speech, or reflect more general traits. Birds share with humans not only the ...
Human biology 83(2):213--245, 2011
Abstract Language as with most communication systems likely evolved by means of natural selection. Accounts for the genetieal selection of language can usually be divided into two scenarios, either of which used in isolation of the other appear insufficient to explain the ...
Biological adaptations for functional features of language in the face of cultural evolutiondoi.orgPDF
Human Biology 83(2):247--259, 2011
Abstract Although there may be no true language universals, it is nonetheless possible to discern several family resemblance patterns across the languages of the world. Recent work on the cultural evolution of language indicates the source of these patterns is unlikely to ...
Learning bias, cultural evolution of language, and the biological evolution of the language facultydoi.orgPDF
Human Biology 83(2):261--278, 2011
The biases of individual language learners act to determine the learnability and cultural stability of languages: learners come to the language learning task with biases which make certain linguistic systems easier to acquire than others. These biases are repeatedly ...
Are Languages Really Independent from Genes?: If Not, What Would a Genetic Bias Affecting Language Diversity Look Like?doi.orgPDF
Human biology 83(2):279--296, 2011
Abstract It is generally accepted that the relationship between human genes and language is very complex and multifaceted. This has its roots in the" regular" complexity governing the interplay among genes and between genes and environment for most phenotypes, but ...
Human biology 83(2):297--321, 2011
Abstract Social structure in human societies is underpinned by the variable expression of ideas about relatedness between different types of kin. We express these ideas through language in our kin terminology: to delineate who is kin and who is not, and to attach ...
A Model of the Mechanisms of Language Extinction and Revitalization Strategies to Save Endangered Languagesdoi.org
Human Biology 82(1):47--75, 2010
Why and how have languages died out? We have devised a mathematical model to help us understand how languages go extinct. We use the model to ask whether language extinction can be prevented in the future and why it may have occurred in the past. A growing number of mathematical ...MORE ⇓
Why and how have languages died out? We have devised a mathematical model to help us understand how languages go extinct. We use the model to ask whether language extinction can be prevented in the future and why it may have occurred in the past. A growing number of mathematical models of language dynamics have been developed to study the conditions for language coexistence and death, yet their phenomenological approach compromises their ability to influence language revitalization policy. In contrast, here we model the mechanisms underlying language competition and look at how these mechanisms are influenced by specific language revitalization interventions, namely, private interventions to raise the status of the language and thus promote language learning at home, public interventions to increase the use of the minority language, and explicit teaching of the minority language in schools. Our model reveals that it is possible to preserve a minority language but that continued long-term interventions will likely be necessary. We identify the parameters that determine which interventions work best under certain linguistic and societal circumstances. In this way the efficacy of interventions of various types can be identified and predicted. Although there are qualitative arguments for these parameter values (e.g., the responsiveness of children to learning a language as a function of the proportion of conversations heard in that language, the relative importance of conversations heard in the family and elsewhere, and the amplification of spoken to heard conversations of the high-status language because of the media), extensive quantitative data are lacking in this field. We propose a way to measure these parameters, allowing our model, as well as others models in the field, to be validated.
Human Biology 81(2-3):181--210, 2009
Attempts to describe language competition and extinction in a mathematical way have enjoyed increased popularity recently. In this paper I review recent modeling approaches and, based on these findings, propose a model of reaction-diffusion type. I analyze the dynamics of ...MORE ⇓
Attempts to describe language competition and extinction in a mathematical way have enjoyed increased popularity recently. In this paper I review recent modeling approaches and, based on these findings, propose a model of reaction-diffusion type. I analyze the dynamics of interactions of a population with two monolingual groups and a group that is bilingual in these two languages. The results show that demographic factors, such as population growth or population dispersal, play an important role in the competition dynamic. Furthermore, I consider the impact of two strategies for language maintenance: adjusting the status of the endangered language and adjusting the availability of monolingual and bilingual educational resources.
Human Biology 81(2-3):259-274, 2009
Previous empirical studies of population size and language change have produced equivocal results. We therefore address the question with a new set of lexical data from nearly one half of the world's languages. We first show that relative population sizes of modern languages can ...MORE ⇓
Previous empirical studies of population size and language change have produced equivocal results. We therefore address the question with a new set of lexical data from nearly one half of the world's languages. We first show that relative population sizes of modern languages can be extrapolated to ancestral languages, albeit with diminishing accuracy, up to several thousand years into the past. We then test for an effect of population against the null hypothesis that the ultrametric inequality is satisfied by lexical distances among triples of related languages. The test shows mainly negligible effects of population, the exception being an apparently faster rate of change in the larger of two very closely related variants. A possible explanation for the exception may be the influence on emerging standard (or cross-regional) variants from speakers that shift from different dialects to the standard. Our results strongly indicate that the sizes of speaker populations do not in and of themselves determine rates of language change. Comparison of this empirical finding with previously published computer simulations suggests that the most plausible model for language change is one in which changes propagate at a local level in a type of network where the individuals have different degrees of connectivity.
Human Biology 81(2--3):237--258, 2009
In this article I provide a review of studies that have modeled interactions between language evolution and demographic processes. The models are classified in terms of three different approaches: analytical modeling, agent-based analytical modeling, and agent-based cognitive ...MORE ⇓
In this article I provide a review of studies that have modeled interactions between language evolution and demographic processes. The models are classified in terms of three different approaches: analytical modeling, agent-based analytical modeling, and agent-based cognitive modeling. I show that these approaches differ in the complexity of interactions that they can handle and that the agent-based cognitive models allow for the most detailed and realistic simulations. Thus readers are provided with a guideline for selecting which approach to use for a given problem. The analytical models are useful for studying interactions between demography and language evolution in terms of high-level processes; the agent-based analytical models are good for studying such interactions in terms of social dynamics without bothering too much about the cognitive mechanisms of language processing; and the agent-based cognitive models are best suited for the study of the interactions between the complex sociocognitive mechanisms underlying language evolution.