What we do and why we do it
Language plays too central a role in human affairs to be the prerogative of any single discipline. Since its creation in 1980, the Max Planck Institute has been at the forefront of interdisciplinary research into the foundations of language and communication. The research conducted here combines perspectives from disciplines as diverse as linguistics, psychology, computer science, neuroscience, genetics, anthropology, informatics, medicine, acoustics and movement science. We investigate how children and adults acquire their language(s), how speaking and listening happen in real time, how the brain processes language, how the human genome contributes to building a language-ready brain, how multiple modalities (as in speech, gesture and sign) shape language and its use in diverse languages and how language is related to cognition and culture, and shaped by evolution. Our approach to the science of language and communication is unique because we address these fundamental issues at multiple levels, from molecules and cells, to circuits and brains, all the way through to the behaviour of individuals and populations.