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Leading Linguists Lecturing On Language Evolution At UC San Diego

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Language Symposium

Language Symposium

The Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny at UC San Diego is hosting a free public symposium, "How Language Evolves," on Feb 20.

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Poets play with language. Children learn language faster than you think. And, some adults struggle to learn a second language.

When it comes to language, how often do people stop and think: How did these sounds come to mean anything?

A group of language researchers from around the world are meeting in San Diego next week to discuss the evolution of language. They'll discuss how humans developed this fascinating ability to communicate.

But researchers have faced challenges with studying the history of language.

"Although there's a lot of interest in how language first came about in human history, the origins of language are very inaccessible," Roger Levy, associate professor of linguistics at UC San Diego, told KPBS Midday Edition on Thursday. "There are fossils to allow us to study the evolution of human anatomy. Language doesn't leave physical records."

Levy said there is hope for researchers as languages evolve.

"There is evidence all around us today in the way that new languages are emerging and existing languages are being reshaped that actually gives us insight to how languages may have emerged," he said.

Sign language has actually given researchers insight on the history of how people communicate because it has a shorter history, said David Perlmutter, professor of linguistics at UC San Diego.

"We can see how sign language spontaneously arrives within deaf communities," Perlmutter said.

The Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny at UC San Diego is hosting a public symposium, "How Language Evolves," on Feb 20. The symposium will focus on how languages get new structure, contrasts between new and mature languages, and languages in the brain.

The symposium, which is being held from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., is free and can be attended in person at the Institute of the Americas at UC San Diego or online. Attendees can register here.

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