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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.



Genes and tongues are not always tied together

Linguistic and Cultural Evolution

GeLaTo, a global database, helps to explore the complex history of our genes and languages


The Bantu expansion took a rainforest route

Linguistic and Cultural Evolution

A recent linguistic study found that early Bantu speakers crossed through the dense Central African Rainforest…


Shedding light on linguistic diversity and its evolution

Linguistic and Cultural Evolution

Linguists and computer scientists collaborate to publish a large global Open Access lexical database