The invasion of language: Emergence, change and death

William Shi Yuan Wang, James W. Minett

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

68 Citations (Scopus)


Research into the emergence and evolution of human language has received unprecedented attention during the past 15 years. Efforts to better understand the processes of language emergence and evolution have proceeded in two main directions: from the top-down (linguists) and from the bottom-up (cognitive scientists). Language can be viewed as an invading process that has had profound impact on the human phenotype at all levels, from the structure of the brain to modes of cultural interaction. In our view, the most effective way to form a connection between the two efforts (essential if theories for language evolution are to reflect the constraints imposed on language by the brain) lies in computational modelling, an approach that enables numerous hypotheses to be explored and tested against objective criteria and which suggest productive paths for empirical researchers to then follow. Here, with the aim of promoting the cross-fertilization of ideas across disciplines, we review some of the recent research that has made use of computational methods in three principal areas of research into language evolution: language emergence, language change, and language death.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-269
Number of pages7
JournalTrends in Ecology and Evolution
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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