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Everything you always wanted to know about language

Is there something you've always wanted to know about language? We might have an answer! The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics has launched an initiative that aims to provide answers to questions about various aspects of language asked by people outside of the language researcher community. Visit our Q&A page to view the latest questions and answers, learn more about the initiative, or submit your own question.
Everything you always wanted to know about language

December 4, 2013

MPI researchers periodically select questions submitted through the web page and post new answers there. Visit our Q&A to read answers for some of our first submissions. You will find responses written by a broad range of experts from the institute, accompanied by relevant links and suggestions for further reading. Each week we post a “question of the week” on the MPI front page (look for it in the right portlet).

Suppose you would like to know: What was language like in the very beginning?

Then, our answer would be:

Nobody knows! This is one of the biggest problems in the field of language evolution. Unlike stone tools or skeletons, the language that people use doesn't fossilise, so we can’t study it directly. We have examples of writing from over 6,000 years ago which can help us work out what languages were like relatively recently, but recent research suggests that people have been using languages very much like our own for maybe 500,000 years. Read more on our Q&A page!

About MPI

This is the MPI

The Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics is an institute of the German Max Planck Society. Our mission is to undertake basic research into the psychological,social and biological foundations of language. The goal is to understand how our minds and brains process language, how language interacts with other aspects of mind, and how we can learn languages of quite different types.

The institute is situated on the campus of the Radboud University. We participate in the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, and have particularly close ties to that institute's Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging. We also participate in the Centre for Language Studies. A joint graduate school, the IMPRS in Language Sciences, links the Donders Institute, the CLS and the MPI.

 

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