Cecila Padilla

Strategic responses in language use and ethnolinguistic reasoning to changing socio-ecologies: Insights from the Yucatec Maya (Cecilia Padilla, University of Zurich)

1:00pm - 2:00pm / Thursday 12th November 2020
Type: Webinar / Category: Department
  • Admission: Free - registration is required to attend this seminar.
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Language is the human universal mode of communication, and is dynamic and constantly in flux to accommodate user needs as individuals interface with the changing world around them. However, we know surprisingly little about how language responds to rapidly changing socio-ecological landscapes, both now and throughout our evolutionary history. In this talk, Cecilia will discuss to what extent humans can strategically adapt the way they use, transmit and even reason about language and linguistic identities in ways that are useful in dynamic environments. For that, she will present longitudinal work from Yucatec Mayan communities spanning the transition to market integration and increased contact with Spanish-speaking towns. She will provide evidence that our plastic developmental processes allow us to use languages as tools for responding adaptively to social information around us. By exploring the ways in which they do so, she will discuss the possibility of predicting the circumstances under which indigenous language use is sustained and equally those under which they are at risk when coming into contact with majority languages. More broadly, the evolutionary dynamics that shaped the current distribution of the world’s linguistic diversity will be discussed.