- The "family tree" of the world's languages, i.e. the extent to which it can be shown that particular languages (a "language family") descend from a single ancestor, and the principles that underlie the establishment of language families. We are interested in both similarities and differences in relation to the biological genetic tree of humanity.
- The role of language contact in giving rise to similarities between languages that cut across family tree boundaries; this includes in particular work on perhaps the most extreme instances of language contact, namely creole and pidgin languages. Universals of language change: Not all logically possible kinds of diachronic change are actually attested, and certain kinds of change recur in language after language. We are interested in discovering limits on possible language changes, in particular in unidirectional changes such as grammaticalization.
The Leipzig School of Human Origins: An International Max Planck Research School - by the University of Leipzig and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology...offers a unique graduate program that combines different disciplines to study the evolutionary history of humans and the great apes.