Volume 25, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1572-0373
  • E-ISSN: 1572-0381
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Research on language evolution is an established subject area yet permeated by terminological controversies about which topics should be considered pertinent to the field and which not. By consequence, scholars focusing on language evolution struggle in providing precise demarcations of the discipline, where even the very central notions of evolution and language are elusive. We aimed at providing a data-driven characterisation of language evolution as a field of research by relying on quantitative analysis of data drawn from 697 reviews on 255 submissions from the Joint Conference on Language Evolution 2022 (Kanazawa, Japan). Our results delineate a field characterized by a core of main research topics such as iconicity, sign language, multimodality. Despite being explored within the framework of language evolution research, only very recently these topics became popular in linguistics. As a result, language evolution has the potential to emerge as a forefront of linguistic research, bringing innovation to the study of language. We also see the emergence of more recent topics like rhythm, music, and vocal learning. Furthermore, the community identifies cognitive science, primatology, archaeology, palaeoanthropology, and genetics as key areas, encouraging empirical rather than theoretical work. With new themes, models, and methodologies emerging, our results depict an intrinsically multidisciplinary and evolving research field, likely adapting as language itself.


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