Humanities-Humanity Symposium: New Tales of the Human Past

Gareth Roberts (UPenn) and Cedric Boeckx (CIASR; Universitat de Barcelona)
Event time: 
Friday, October 14, 2022 - 9:00am to 5:00pm
Humanities Quadrangle (HQ 136) See map
Event description: 
Friday, October 14 • 9:00am-5:00pm
Humanities Quadrangle (HQ), 136
Invited Speakers:
Gareth Roberts, University of Pennsylvania
Cedric Boeckx, Catalan Institute for Advanced Studies and Research; Universitat de Barcelona
Claire Bowern, Yale University
Serena Tucci, Yale University
Gary Tomlinson, Yale University
Maria Piñango, Yale University
A symposium about cultural change and human history.
The last ten years have fundamentally changed approaches to evolutionary systems in human culture. The sequencing of DNA from ancient human remains, including from our closest extinct relatives such as Neanderthals and Denisovans, has opened a new perspective to reconstruct the human past. We now have a much richer knowledge of how modern humans spread around the globe over the last hundred thousand years, which other hominid species they came into contact with and interacted with, and how modern human populations are related to one another. At the same time, we have glimpses into the past lives of humans and their relatives through the archaeological record – through the bones, art, artifacts, and structures they have left behind and the imprint they have left on the landscape. This symposium is part of a special Humanities-Humanity seminar series organized by Claire Bowern and Serena Tucci on human evolution, population history and cultural/linguistic change. These events bring together a group of anthropologists, geneticists, historians, linguists, and musicologists investigating culture, cognition, and evolution, working between the humanities and sciences. 
For this event we will host two invited speakers, Gareth Roberts and Cedric Boeckx, who will present their work on the relationship between language evolution and cognition. 
Gareth Roberts is an Associate Professor in Linguistics and co-director of the Social and Cultural Evolution Working Group (SCEW) at the University of Pennsylvania. Much of his work involves experiments in which participants play games using artificial languages or collaboratively construct novel “laboratory languages” by playing communication games using non-linguistic channels. He has done work on the role of social, communicative, and information-theoretic pressures in the emergence of grammatical and social structure in language, and he is currently engaged in an NSF-funded project to use color-based communication systems to investigate the emergence of phonological organization. Very occasionally he works directly on real languages.
Cedric Boeckx is a Research Professor at the Catalan Institute for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA), and Principal Investigator of the Cognitive Biology of Language research group at the University of Barcelona. Before moving to Barcelona, he taught at Harvard University. His current research focuses on the neurobiological foundations of the human language faculty, with special emphasis on evolutionary issues. His graduate training and early career were in cognitive science and theoretical linguistics, but his more recent work has a more explicit biological, and experimental orientation. His current projects are all intended to facilitate integration among disciplines (linguistics, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and genetics), and lead to better experimental testing of theoretical hypotheses, as well as to more solid interpretations of experimental findings.
The seminars are sponsored by the Whitney Humanities Center (Humanities/Humanity program) and are free and open to the public (register here).
Program (10/14)
9:00- 9:10 Opening remarks
9:10-10:30 Speaker, Gareth Roberts (University of Pennsylvania), Title: “New tales of linguistic conflict: Competition for semantic resources in artificial language games”. Discussant: Maria Piñango
10:30-11:00. Coffee break (Room HQ 137)
11-12 - Short talks from Yale faculty (David Watts and Elitzur Bar-Asher Siegal)
12-1:30 Lunch break (Room HQ 137)
1:30-3:00 Speaker: Cedric Boeckx (Catalan Institute for Advanced Studies and Research; Universitat de Barcelona). Title: “Becoming hunter-gatherers of words”.
Discussant: Gary Tomlinson
3:00-3:30 Coffee break (Room HQ 137)
3:30-5:00 Discussion
Event Type: 
Conferences & Workshops