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Diversification project

What has evolved in the hominin lineage is a system of thought and talk that is spectacularly dynamic, ever-changing in its own mode of what we call linguistic evolution. A major drive behind this continued diversification process is the human desire for markers of group identity, a sense of belonging that has powerful psychological consequences in facilitating trust and cooperation. Change is constrained again by the maximum state space of the language faculty and by universal learning and processing mechanisms. Typically, change originates through error or choice — often motivated by contact with other languages — chiefly among adolescents and adults. When the change spreads enough to shift the probability distributions from which children learn, it results in linguistic evolution. 

In the Diversification Project we tackle the change and learning (spread) processes in adults, through the work packages (WP) Diversity Conditions, Diversity Functions and Stationarity.

WP Diversity Conditions

WP DiversityConditions examines the neuro-biological mechanisms that enable our capacity for change and adult (re)learning.

Diversity Generation Task
PIs: Bickel, Giraud, Meyer; Collaborating PIs: Zuberbühler, Stadler, Widmer; Senior Researchers: Cathcart, Olasagasti

Aptitude Task
PIs: Berthele, Golestani, NN FunGenetics; Collaborating PI: Brem

Neuromodulation Task
PIs: Brem, Guggisberg; Collaborating PIs: Bavelier, Hervais-Adelman, Laganaro

WP Diversity Functions

Complementary to WP DiversityConditions, WP DiversityFunctions seeks to elucidate how exactly diversification serves the social functions it has, both for divergence (schismogenesis) and convergence (cohesion), and how these functions might play a role in serving the social needs of other animals.

Schismogenesis Task
PIs: Mansfield, Widmer, Stadler, NN PopGenetics; Collaborating PIs: Shimizu, Bangerter, Bickel; Senior Researcher: Cathcart

Storytelling Task
  PIs: Bangerter, Clément, Mansfield, Mazzarella; Collaborating PI: Migliano

Proto-Normativity Task
PIs: Burkart, Townsend, Zuberbühler; Collaborating PIs: Bangerter, Clément

WP Stationarity

Drawing on insights from the previous two WP, WP Stationarity aims to estimate the overall dynamics of linguistic evolution at the species level and examine whether there are analogies or homologies in other primates or other mammals more widely.

Population History Task
PIs: Bickel, NN PopGenetics, Shimizu, Migliano; Collaborating PIs: Widmer, NN FunGenetics, Stadler; Senior Researchers: Cathcart, Ranacher

Call Dynamics Task
PIs: Bickel, Stadler, Zuberbühler, Hahnloser; Collaborating PIs: Townsend, Burkart, Widmer

Phylogenetic Modelling Task
PIs: Stadler, Furrer; Collaborating PI: Bickel; Senior Researchers: Cathcart, Ranacher