Our first paper will be about 12 common misconceptions about language evolution.

This misconception-project has three functions:

  • To make you familiar with the main pitfall of human evolution and language evolution
  • To evaluate your abilities to develop an idea and write about it, so we can make recommendations on how you can efficiently benefit from this course.
  • To collectively write a paper.

This will be the basic structure:

Title: “Twelve common misconceptions about language evolution”

  1. Introduction
  2. Methodologie
  3. 12 misconceptions
  4. Conclusion

The 3. section has 12 subsection each about one misconception. Each of this subsection will be written by a different author or author group. The first author will integrate all contributions into an stylistically consistent text. Then the introduction, methodologies and conclusion, will be added by the core-team. We will have some weeks of critical discussions with all and an editing process with few.

Please read the misconceptions and then follow the guidelines.

Common Misconception

1. Language is essentially a learned convention

2. How two people without a common language communicate, gives us insight into how language  evolved

3. Group selection can explain language evolution

4. Brain-first theories are compatible with naturalism

5. Mutations are the driving force in the evolution of language

6. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny

7. Evo-Devo is the solution to language evolution

8a Epigenetic is the key to language evolution

8b. The Baldwin effect is the key to language evolution

9. Trust is needed for language evolution to begin

10. Language developed for thinking and was only later eternalized and used for communication

11. Explaining the emergence of language is to explain the emergence of recursion

12. Language-ready brains developed before language itself

13. Standard evolutionary theory cannot explain the evolution of the language faculty

14. Language is an exaptation

15. Phenomenology can explain the evolution of language and its speaker

16. The basis of language evolution is self-domestication


You can keep on reading or download the guidelines. The online text will be updated, but not the pdf.

Step 1 (before the first session on the 18.10): Research all the apparent “misconceptions” and look for evidence of why they might be wrong. This overview should not take more than 40-50 mins.

Step 2: (before the online session on the 20.10) Pick 2-4 misconceptions that you would like to focus on and take some notes on them. This process should not take more than 40-50mins. Even if you have a clear favorite, please chose at least one alternative.

Step 3: Chose your main idea – one of the misconceptions – and write about it. 500 words is a good length. It may be longer as well. The goal is to develop a clearly structured argument. You may include references, such as books and papers but also any type of websites (including articles, blogs, videos etc.). Please send it to me before the second session on Tuesday 25th of October and we will discuss them in the writing group on Thursday 27th of October
Please name the file: [number of the misconception] [short title of the misconception] [your name] [Year][month][day]: Example “09-Trust-Aerts-2022-09-28”

Step 4: Every group or person should have a 15 min discussion on Friday 28th of October or Friday 5th of November with Till and/or Anne on ZOOM. Please contact Anne for scheduling before 27th of October. You have 10 days to develop an exposé – either alone or with people working on the same topic. Please submit it to the forum before Monday 7th of November. You will need to comment on at least two exposés in the forum form other participants in the following week.

Step 5: The first author will reduce the number of misconceptions for the paper. If your contribution is cut, you might either join another group or leave the misconception writing group. We will typically give up claims (misconceptions) that are too controversially discussed or which are for other reason not suitable for the paper. We may end up reducing the number of misconceptions to say 10 or 12. This will also be the point where some people will find out that they are not ready yet to contribute to a scientific paper for a top journal in the field. This will not affect their participation in the Tuesday class. If people are in a writing group which do not improve the output of the group, they can switch to more practical contributions.

We will (semi)formulize the argument structure.

Step 6: If your exposé is accepted, you will have about 10 days to submit your final version. Till and Anne will provide one-on-one sessions to help. You will also get an honest feedback on your current paper writing skills.

Step 7: Editing process.

Step 8: Submission.

Step 9: Review process. You have to participate in the review process. This is obligatory if you want your name on the paper. Please be aware that review processes begin whenever we get the feedback form the reviewers. You will need to react to the comments of the reviewers concerning your part within few days and coordinate the submission with the first author.

16 obligatory sessions:

On Tuesdays we will discuss papers. Thursdays will be dedicated to the writing groups.

 18.10 20.10   
 25.10 27.10   
 01.11 03.11   
 08.11 11.11