Abstract

In this seminar I will present my new RJ-funded project "Cultural Evolution of Texts". This project grows out of my long term interests in the evolutionary processes underlying language change. Cultural evolionary processes, of which language change is only one example, may be more or less "treelike". While treelike histories are the most tractable to evolutionary methods, progress is being made in the quantitative anlysis of networked, reticulate histories as well. This project takes advantage of the complex yet richly documented histories of oral and written textual traditions.  It advances a mixed methods approach to work on the transmission of religious and instructional texts. The approach combines qualitative philological expertise of the scholars of different textual traditions with computational, phylogenetic analysis from the evolutionary sciences. Outcomes of the project will be new ways to understand the history of complex culture, contributions to science of human communication, as well as new methodological developments and applications in phylogenetic networks and the analysis of linguistic and cultural evolution.

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Prof. Michael Dunn (Uppsala University) is an evolutionary linguist, with a background in language description, linguistic typology, and phylogenetics. His current research focus is on the evolutionary processes acting within language and between language and culture.