Activities and Seminars

Why are there so many languages and why are some so complicated? Gary Lupyan
Date: Jul 13, 2012

Where: Aquarium Donostia - San Sebastian, 19:30

Why are there so many languages and why are some so complicated?(Work in collaboration with Dr. Rick Dale)

There exist over 6,000 languages. Why are there so many and how did some become so complicated?

For example, in English we say “this” and “that.” Spanish provides three options: este, ese, aquel.

In comparison, Inuktitut provides dozens of ways for specifying where “this” is. Recent evidence suggests that such differences can be explained by viewing language as an adaptive system. On this “linguistic niche” hypothesis, languages differ because they are learned and used in different social and demographic environments.

I will review evidence in support of this hypothesis and discuss some consequences for understanding the role of language in cognition.

Gary Lupyan

Assistant Professor of Psychology

University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

Limited seating. Please confirm your attendance by email ( or phone (943 309 300).