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Pint of Science 2024 in Zürich – Language Multitude

John Mansfield
Sein, Hohlstrasse 355 8004, Zürich

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How did human languages get so different from each other? – By John Mansfield (University of Zürich)

The main function of language is to allow people to communicate, which requires them to share the same language. This makes it somewhat surprising that human language is incredibly diverse, with a global count of some 6000-7000 distinct languages. What historical processes could have led to such diversity? In this talk I will give a paradoxical answer: diversification has been driven both by people dispersing across the continents, but also by people living side-by-side.