How did language begin?

Professor Simon Kirby

What makes human speech miraculous is the fact that no other creature in history that we know of has evolved the skill. The origin of language is evolution’s greatest mystery, but how did language begin?

Learn about this Garden Talk

Language is a unique and complex skill. For centuries scholars and scientists have been arguing about the origins of language.

In this Garden talk you'll learn about the biological foundations of language, and how we share some of the same features of language as songbirds, bats and dolphins. How does understanding and reading signals set us apart from the animal kingdom? And are there any other species that also understand signals?

Simon Kirby is a Professor of Language Evolution at the University of Edinburgh and the Founder of the Centre for Language Evolution there, which takes an interdisciplinary approach to studying language emergence & evolution.

Simon will share his insights into the two pillars of the origins of languages and how domesticated species might hold the key to understanding how language began?

Talk outline


50 minutes

What to expect

30 minute talk

20 minute Member Q&A

Professor Simon Kirby

Simon Kirby is Professor of Language Evolution at the University of Edinburgh and an elected Fellow of the British Academy, Royal Society of Edinburgh, and Cognitive Science Society.

Evolution of Language Collection

How do languages evolve?  From the origins of language to bilingualism, this series journeys into the mysteries of this uniquely human trait and the power it has to change our world.

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