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Professor James Hurford FBA

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About this Fellow

Jim Hurford trained as an articulatory phonetician, and has written textbooks on semantics and grammar, two books on numeral systems and three books on the origins and evolution of language, beside articles on phonetics, syntax, phonology, language acquisition and pragmatics. His interest is in reconciling various traditions in Linguistics which have tended to conflict. His work is interdisciplinary, based in linguistics, but reaching out to, and taking insights and data from, anthropology, psychology, neuroscience, genetics, artificial intelligence and philosophy. His thinking relates the work of formal linguists who study sentences out of their communicative context, psycholinguists and neuroscientists who study the brain processes underlying language use, and anthropologists and sociolinguists who emphasize how language is embedded in social groups. This effort considers how representations of languages in individual minds interact with properties of languages used in communities, and emphasizes the interaction of evolution, learning and communication. Early work focussed on numeral systems, and this broadened out to the topic of the evolution of language, in all senses of that phrase. He produced some of the earliest computer simulations of aspects of the evolution of language.

Website: http://www.lel.ed.ac.uk/~jim/

Appointments

Current post

  • Emeritus Professor of General Linguistics, University of Edinburgh

Other Linguistics and Philology Fellows

Professor Dan Sperber

Cognition, communication and culture in an evolutionary perspective; anthropological fieldwork in Ethiopia, theoretical and experimental work in linguistic pragmatics and in cognitive psychology

Professor Elizabeth Traugott

Historical linguistics; semantic change, cognitive and interactional pragmatics; theories of grammaticalisation and construction grammar

Professor Paul Kiparsky

Phonology, morphology, historical linguistics, metrics, and the Sanskrit grammatical tradition. The relation between word structure and sentence structure, and the principles governing language change.

Professor Jenny Cheshire

Sociolinguistics; language change in multilingual urban centres, adolescent language, language & education, syntactic & discourse variation, syntax of spoken English.