If you have any questions about the event please contact Amber Cuttill.

E: a.cuttill@ucl.ac.uk

T: +44(0)20 3108 4106

Language and Culture

Everyday we use our actions and our words to express ourselves as individuals and as part of a wider society or culture, but how we can be sure that our actions and our words mean what we think they mean? This conference explored the very basic realities of how we interact with one another.

You might be interested in this conference if you are currently studying:

  • Ancient History
  • Classical Civilisation
  • Classical Greek
  • History
  • Latin
  • An ancient language
  • A modern language
  • English Literature
  • English Language
  • Government & Politics
  • History
  • Philosophy
  • Religious Studies
  • Sociology

Language and Culture lectures and seminars

The Evolution of Language

UCL Anthropology

Opening Lecture

Only humans use language, and language is found in all human populations. Where did language come from, and why are there so many of them? When did humans start using language? Did it evolve together with our large brains? This introductory talk will discuss how the human brain produces language, why it evolved, the differences between human language and other forms of animal communication, and why humans have created so many mutually unintelligible languages when, in fact, only one would suffice. This talk will introduce students to the science of language from the multiple perspectives of neuroscience, cognitive linguistics and evolutionary anthropology.

Etiquette and naked strangers in Homer's Odyssey

Department of Greek & Latin

Lecture and Seminar

"What’s the best way for a naked man to introduce himself to a foreign princess? How do you avoid being turned into a pig when dining with a witch - or escape being eaten when supping with the Cyclops?

The Greek hero Odysseus will be our guide to the perils of ancient cooking, courtship and colonialism in and around the Mediterranean as we examine Homer’s account of his long journey home more than 2,700 years ago.

We’ll discuss how the Odyssey depicts feasting, foreigners and nationality, before considering why the Greeks later saw the world as divided between themselves and Barbarians."

A Bull or an Elephant? Translation as intercultural communication

UCL School of Slavonic & East European Studies

Lecture & Seminar

The “bull in a china shop” turns to be an “elephant” in the same idiom in Polish. “Skating on thin ice” bceomes “walking around in a thin robe” and “beating around the bush” is “wrapping in cotton”. Idioms are illogical, inflexible, hard and fast collocations: they do not make sense as a sum of meanings of the given words. The meaning of the idioms is specified with almost no connection to any particular meaning of the words – only some distant metaphorical logic may apply. Nevertheless, we all use idioms, these irrational utterances: to know a language well is to be able to use idiomatic expressions correctly and in their proper context. 

What happens when two languages exists closely alongside each other? The bull and the elephant stop having distinctive features and intermingle easily; one can skate in a thin robe and beat around the cotton. Idioms merge and twist as if in a poetic gesture – since poetry is the only field where fiddling with idioms is allowed. Does communication however suffer from these confusions? What happens to the languages themselves? How do translations of idioms work? Or can they be translated? Maybe multi-linguistic communication is derived from the nuances of idiomatic expressions? Why deal with a bull or an elephant when we can just be clumsy?

The language of culture the culture of language

UCL English

Lecture & Seminar

How does the way we use language reflect our cultural background? What happens when people use the same language differently and how are these differences represented in sources of linguistic and social authority? 

During these sessions, we will take a linguistic approach to thinking about the meaning of the word culture and how it is represented in contemporary society. The representation of slang and non-standard varieties of English will be the focus of the seminar, when we take a closer look at the ways in which dictionaries are made. You will be encouraged to discuss contemporary language use in your own cultural communities and together we will debate the ethical issues which surround word definition today.

What's in a word?

UCL Italian

Lecture & Seminar

Words are central to human language, as sentences are formed out of words. But what about the words themselves? Are they the minimal units of language? As we will see in this lecture words can be decomposed into further smaller units which our mind is able to combine together into complete words using extremely simple systematic rules for word building.

View the schedule for the day
Read the eligibility criteria.