Science and Engineering at The University of Edinburgh

Soft Condensed Matter, Biological Physics Experiment & Statistical Physics Seminars

Explanatory note

This is a weekly series of informal talks given primarily by members of the soft condensed matter and statistical mechanics groups, but is also open to members of other groups and external visitors. The aim of the series is to promote discussion and learning of various topics at a level suitable to the broad background of the group. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Speakers should read this note

Week beginning 4 October 2015

Monday 5 Oct 15 - 1:00pm

Language change in individuals and populations

Richard Blythe (University of Edinburgh)

Historical linguists study changes that occur in the structure of languages - for example, changes in word order - that occur over many human generations. Psycholinguists meanwhile investigate (amongst other things) changes that arise from language learning and use. The link between the individual- and population-level dynamics is unclear, and provides an opportunity for investigation within the framework of statistical physics, which is set up to do the same sort of thing for condensed matter systems. In this talk I will argue that a very broad class of models of individual learning in populations predict that the system size (number of speakers) should have a big effect on the rate of historical language change, which is apparently not a feature of the empirical data. I will further propose that this conflict can be resolved if one augments language-learning biases that are universal to all humans with a set of socially-acquired biases that vary between cultures and over time.

Upcoming meetings

Monday 12 Oct 15 - 1:00pm - Room 2511 JCMB

To be confirmed

Alex Morosov (University of Edinburgh)

Monday 19 Oct 15 - 1:00pm - Room 2511 JCMB

To be confirmed

Nick Koumakis (University of Edinburgh)

Monday 26 Oct 15 - 1:00pm - Room 2511 JCMB

To be confirmed

Toby Samuels (University of Edinburgh)

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Note for speakers

  • We try to encourage an informal atmosphere.
  • To encourage discussion, talks are limited to 30/40 mins plus up to 20/10 mins for questions.
  • Almost any style of talk is allowed and resident speakers are encouraged to give a variety of different types of talk during their stay at Edinburgh. Examples include talks about the speaker's research, a particular paper or publication (`Journal Club' talks), pedagogical talks, question-and-answer sessions, etc.
  • Speakers are encouraged to pitch their seminars to the whole group.
  • I would be grateful if the next speaker on the list could inform me of the title and short abstract (it should fit onto the usual advertising poster) of his/her talk by Wednesday of the week before, to allow me to do the advertising.
  • Anyone unable to give their talk on the scheduled date should in the first instance try to rearrange with someone else on the list, and only then inform me of the final outcome so that I can change the rota.
  • Talks of soft condensed matter students can only be cancelled with permission from Prof. Cates, and should be done as far in advance as possible to give some chance of finding a replacement.
  • If anyone would like to volunteer a seminar themselves, knows of a visitor or new arrival who might be willing to give a talk, or for any other queries, please contact the seminar organiser (see below for email address).