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Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution

Director: Prof. (Univ. Auckland) Dr. Russell Gray

Understanding language and culture is fundamental to understanding what it is to be human. The Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution aims to describe and explain patterns of linguistic and cultural regularity and diversity across the globe. We bring anthropologists, computer scientists, evolutionary biologists, linguists and social scientists together to achieve this aim. We tackle these questions by combining a digital ecosystem of linked global linguistic and cultural databases with analyses using evolutionary theories and computational methods. This thoroughly interdisciplinary approach enables us to combine the quantitative rigour of the natural sciences while still utilising the insights that only come from maintaining close contact with the primary linguistic and cultural data.



Variability in human body vocabularies

Linguistic and Cultural Evolution

Linguistic analysis provides insight into the vocabularies for body parts in more than a thousand languages


Did Eurasia's dominant East-West axis "turn the fortunes of history"?

Linguistic and Cultural Evolution

New research shows that environmental barriers have influenced the spread of cultural innovations but do not…


The evolution of complex grammars

Linguistic and Cultural Evolution

A new study shows that changes in grammatical complexity are not shaped by social environments