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

An ERC Consolidator Grant was awarded to Johann-Mattis List, a research group leader in the Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig

The research project Producitive Signs (ProduSemy) - A computer-assisted analysis of evolutionary, typological, and cognitive dimensions of word families, will investigate how words are reused in order to form complex words in the lexicon of human languages. All human languages have simple and complex words. Simple words refer to concepts regardless of their form, while complex words are formed from other words. As a result, words can be assembled into word families (such as "to bake" >>> "baker" >>> "bakery") and one can study the processes by which new words are created from different perspectives. The ProduSemy project will develop novel techniques of computational analysis and linguistic annotation in order to target key questions regarding the evolution, the distribution, and the psychology of word families.

The highly competitive ERC Consolidator Grant funds selected projects with up to €2 million for a period of five years. This year, 12 percent of applicants were successful. With a total of €632 million, the 2022 Consolidator Grants will fund wide-ranging, ambitious research in the Life Sciences, Physical Sciences and Engineering, and Social Sciences and Humanities. The Council estimates that roughly 1,900 jobs will be created for postdoctoral fellows, PhD students and other staff as a result.

Words like German "Ellenbogengesellschaft" ("dog-eat-dog-society") are complex, since they have been formed from other words over time.