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Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution

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

The Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution aims to answer big picture questions about human history. Our focus is on describing and explaining the major patterns of linguistic and cultural variation across the globe. To achieve this aim we bring together anthropologists, computer scientists, evolutionary biologists, linguists and social scientists. Together we tackle these questions by developing novel language documentation methods, global linguistic and cultural databases, and 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.

The Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution is currently moving from the MPI for the Science of Human History in Jena to the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig.



Studying the evolution, the distribution and the psychology of word families

Linguistic and Cultural Evolution

An ERC Consolidator Grant was awarded to Johann-Mattis List, a research group leader in the Department of…


NoRaRe: A Multilingual Database of Word and Concept Properties

Linguistic and Cultural Evolution

A new study in Behavior Research Methods by a team of researchers in Germany presents the Database of…


10 Million Euro ERC Synergy Grant Awarded for Study of the Cognitive and Cultural Evolution of Numeracy

Linguistic and Cultural Evolution

The QUANTA project is the first concerted effort to address the ambitious questions of when, why, and how…