Creativity and innovation in the evolution of language

CreativEvolang is a satellite workshop of EvoLang XI, an interdisciplinary conference examining the evolution of language. The workshop will be held March 21, 2016 at the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life at Tulane, hosted by the University of Southern Mississippi. CreativEvolang is an activity of the Kreyon Project.

The workshop will include talks and a small exhibition examining how how creativity and innovations, among both individuals and populations, contribute to language evolution. Recent efforts to study and define creativity have drawn considerable interest from both psychology and complex systems science, but few have taken an evolutionary perspective on the problem, particularly with respect to verbal and linguistic creativity.

The workshop will focus on two perspectives on this problem: one which takes the close view of language features and structure common in much work on language evolution, and one which takes a broader view of language as a creative tool for play, interaction, and narrative. In the first view, the workshop aims to showcase work which helps us to understand how innovations arise and spread in language, and what role creativity might play in this process. Work in this vein includes investigations on how languages diverge, how new features or variants arise in languages over time, as well as how these innovations spread across space (e.g., the diffusion of neologisms across a social network).

In the broader view, we aim to examine how language informs creativity in play and narrative, and how this has contributed to linguistic and cognitive evolution in humans. This part of the workshop will focus on the development and evolution of individual linguistic creativity, the presence of creativity in non-human animals, the uniquely human creative traditions of storytelling and music, and the interplay between imitation and emulation in learning and innovation. The workshop hopes to conclude by defining creativity and innovation in a clearer light, accounting for how these processes contribute to both language change and divergence, as well as the broader cognitive and cultural evolutionary context surrounding language.