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This two-day workshop is an introduction to the investigation of language from the perspective of human genetics. The workshop will be accessible to students and researchers from all levels and academic backgrounds, and no prior knowledge of genetics is required.
Language is in our DNA: our shared genetic endowment lies at the heart of the universal capacity for language, while the genetic differences between us contribute to the variability in our linguistic abilities. Tracing the connections between genes, brains and language will provide fresh insights into many areas of inquiry within linguistics.For example, how does genetic variation contribute to individual differences in language acquisition and use, and to disorders of speech and language? How could genetic factors help explain the universal constraints and tendencies in language? Have genetic differences between human populations shaped the diversity we observe in the world’s languages today? How can studying the DNA of ancient humans and other species inform the debates on the nature and evolution of our capacity for language? How is language grounded in the brain and ultimately in the genome?
On day one of this workshop, researchers working at the interface of genetics and language will give presentations introducing the principles of molecular genetics, the nature of human genetic similarity and variation, the state-of-the-art methods employed by genetic research into language, the exciting discoveries made so far, and the emerging questions and future research directions. In addition to providingparticipantswith an overview of thecurrent state of knowledge regarding the role of specific genes in language, these presentations aim toequip participants with the core knowledge to tap into this growing literature, to make a sound evaluation of the role of genetics in their area of interest, andto identify the potential to integrate genetic investigations into their work. Each presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session coordinated by a linguistics researcher, designed to clarify the material covered, to address myths and misconceptions about genetics, and to stimulate discussion of the ramifications for linguistics. On day two, researchers from both genetics and linguistics will together lead structured discussion sessions, where participants will be encouraged to put forward their own questions and views on the application of genetic studies to linguistics research.