Friday, 9 November 2007

The evolution of language in Europe

This week we talk to Dr Quentin Atkinson, an evolutionary psychologist from the University of Reading in the UK, about the evolution of language in Europe.

Languages, like genes, provide vital clues about human prehistory. The Indo-European languages, now spoken across Europe and the near East, show strikingly similar words for some meanings, indicating that they have come from a common source, now long forgotten. Atkinson and his team used statistical models of language evolution derived from evolutionary biology to date the age of the Indo-European language family and so test between the two main competing theories of Indo-European origins - the 'Kurgan horsemen' and 'Anatolian farming' hypotheses.

This podcast also comes from the York Science Festival. Listen to this show here.

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