Major Language Evolution Papers: #2

Towards a Unified Science of Cultural Evolution

Mesoudi et al 2004

Who’s it by? Alex Mesoudi, a psychologist with an interest in modelling cultural evolution. Andrew Whiten, a psychologist and primatologist, most famous for the Machiavellian Intelligence Hypothesis, and Kevin Laland, a biologist with an interest in animal social learning, cultural evolution and niche construction.

What’s it about? Mesoudi et al neatly outline the relationship between cultural evolution and biological evolution, and explore the different methodologies for analysing and modelling cultural evolution.

Why should an evolutionary linguist care? Unless you are only obsessed with the biological basis for languag, then culture is likely to play an important role in any account of language evolution. It may account for many of the features of language that Chomskian accounts have presumed are innate. It also represents a parallel and fascinating area for evolutionary explorations to move into.

Anyway, here is Erin Brown’s excellent presentation on the paper.

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