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Special interest groups (SIGs)

Last modified: 29/07/2022

Evolution - Research, NCCR Evolving Language, National Centre of Competence in Research

The SIGs are ad-hoc groups of PIs from at least two different research fields and possibly including further internal and/or external collaborators. They target research questions that are relevant to the NCCR agenda but are not yet covered by existing projects and thus can be developed as projects or work packages in future phases.

Cetacean communication

The Cetacean communication SIG is composed of NCCR PIs K. Zuberbühler and R. Hahnloser, and other external collaborators M. Krützen (UZH), S. King (Uni Bristol), J. Rychen (ETHZ) and C. Baumgartner (ETHZ). The SIG intends to collaborate with research teams of the Projects Grammar, Diversification, Cooperation and Sociality to a) develop a research program on understanding the relationship between physically coordinated joint action and flexible vocal communication in cetaceans, with comparisons between humans and non-human primates; b) determine what linguistic features are present in cetacean communication systems and compare communication structures with species under similar and different social and ecological pressures; c) develop technological advancements that enable researchers to process large amounts of high-quality acoustic data, collect high-resolution tracking data of wild cetaceans and conduct field-based experiments to test the function of cetacean communication signals in the wild.

Canid cognition

The Canid cognition SIG is composed of NCCR PIs Klaus Zuberbühler, Martin Meyer, Anne-Lise Giraud, Simon Townsend and Balthasar Bickel, as well as collaborators CiRi Science Coordinator, Paola Cerrito and Henning Richter (Vetsuisse). An influential theory states that the evolution of human hyper-cooperation ultimately drove the transition from basic primate-like vocal and gestural communication to more flexible and, eventually, conventionalised language. To explore this hypothesis, this SIG studies the canid cognition, as an interesting model for the evolution of social and referential mechanisms that may be considered adaptive traits of human language.With this approach, they leverage the evolutionary convergences and study the relations between cooperation, communication and perception by comparing species, which is then likely to generate crucial insights into the origins of language.