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Mark Pagel
University of Reading, UK

Mark Pagel is an evolutionary theorist with interests in mathematical and statistical modeling of evolutionary processes. His current interests include language and cultural evolution, networks, regulation, emergence of complex systems, robustness and evolvability, punctuational versus gradual evolutionary change, and evolutionary genomics. His co-authored 1991 monograph on comparative statistical methods in evolutionary biology is standard reading for the field and he is the author of several other statistical methods for identifying and analyzing evolutionary trends and for inferring phylogenetic trees.   His group's work regularly appears in the pages of the journals Nature and Science, and receives widespread media attention.  Professor Pagel has just been awarded £2 million from the European Research Council to continue his work on the evolution of human languages.

Sunday 11 September, 17:45 - 18:45

Human Language as a Culturally Transmitted Replicator

Human languages form a distinct and largely independent class of cultural replicators with behaviour and fidelity that can rival that of genes. Parallels between biological and linguistic evolution mean that statistical methods inspired by genomics, phylogenetics and comparative biology are being increasingly applied to study language. Phylogenetic trees constructed from linguistic elements chart the history of human cultures, and comparative studies reveal surprising and general features of how languages evolve, including patterns in the rates of evolution of language elements and social factors that influence temporal trends of language evolution.