DEC Colloquium

From genes to language universals and linguistic diversity: building causal explanations across levels, timescales, methods and scientific disciplines

Speaker(s)
Dan Dediu
Practical information
16 February 2016

 

Establishing causality is essential to the scientific enterprise and the language sciences are no exception. In this talk I will discuss the difficulties of generating and testing causal stories when we must cross several scientific disciplines and connect time-scales and levels ranging from molecules to patterns of linguistic diversity and universal tendencies. I will first briefly discuss the "Causality in the Sciences" framework and then proceed to dissect (from a causal point of view) my proposal that vocal tract anatomy (ultimately with a genetic component) might play a role in explaining some patterns of cross-linguistic variation in phonetics and phonology. This detailed discussion will hopefully generalize to other such attempts at establishing long, multi-level, multi-method and multi-disciplinary causal stories.