UCL News


The birth of Indo-European languages

18 April 2005

A guest lecture at UCL's AHRC Centre for the Evolutionary Analysis of Cultural Behaviour (CEACB) on 27 April 2005 presented new findings about the age of the Indo-European languages.

Dr Russell Gray, Associate Professor at the Department of Psychology, University of Auckland, New Zealand, will talk about his recent research on deciphering the origins of modern languages. Published in the journal 'Nature', his research shows that the roots of the languages we speak today emerged 8,500 years ago - 2,500 years earlier than previously believed, a finding that has provoked much debate and interest among anthropologists. 

Dr Gray's research departs from traditional linguistic methods, drawing instead on more statistical models drawn from evolutionary biology to create language 'trees' in order to date the emergence of the Indo-European languages. Similar methods have been employed within the CEACB, particularly by Dr Clare Holden who has carried out similar work on African Bantu languages.

The CEACB is the first centre in the world to be dedicated to research on the evolutionary underpinnings of human culture. Research studies at the CEACB draw on the methods developed in biology to analyse how genes are passed down through generations, and apply these methods to the analysis of culture. The centre recently received a £1.25 million five-year grant from the Arts & Humanities Research Board to further its work.

To find out more about the CEACB use the link below.