Sean Roberts

Info




Research

I am a post-doc researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen.

I was a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh at the Language Evolution and Computation Research Unit. I was supervised by Simon Kirby, Kenny Smith and Antonella Sorace, supported by an ESRC 1+3 grant.

I study Language Evolution, bilingualism and large-scale, cross-cultural statistics.

I have an MA in Artificial Intelligence and Linguistics and an MSc in the Evolution of Language and Cognition, both from the University of Edinburgh.

I blog about my research at Replicated Typo. I have an older blog The Adventures of Auck which discusses bilingualism, codeswitching and language acquisition.

Upcoming talks

University of Groningen Center for Language and Cognition: 25th January 2013. Bilingualism: What is it, who has it and how did it evolve?

Representative posts

These are some blog posts from Replicated Typo that were chosen as Editor's selections at Research Blogging

Cultural Evolution and the impending Singularity

Creative cultural transmission as chaotic sampling

The Social Sensitivity Hypothesis

Linguistic diversity and traffic accidents

Sonority and Sex: Why smaller communities are louder

Chocolate Consumption, Traffic Accidents and Serial Killers

Talk Videos

The death of language

The Evolution of Bilingualism

Cultural evolution and the impending singularity.

Arguments against a bilingual faculty.

Publications

Articles

Tamariz, M., Cornish, H., Smith, K., Roberts, S. & Kirby, S. (in prep.) How transmission and usage shape linguistic structure.

Roberts, S. & Winters, J. (2012) Social structure and language structure: The new nomothetic approach. Psychology of language and Communication. 16(2). Special issue on Language as Social Coordination. Open Access

Invited Talks

The co-evolution of language structure and social structure. Institute of Linguistics, University of Tübingen. 7 May, 2012.

Spurious correlations in linguistics. EU:Sci podcast, 4 May, 2012. podcast. extended podcast. blog post.

The death of language: Why evolutionary linguists shouldn't study langauge. Soap Vox Lecture Series, Linguistics and English Language Society, University of Edinburgh. 5th October 2011. Watch the video.

Cultural Evolution and the impending signularity. Santa Fe Complex Systems Summer School, 2010. video

Blogging about Research, University of Edinburgh's Innovative Learning Week.discussed here, more details

Book Chapters

Roberts, S. (in press). Monolingual biases in simulations of cultural transmission.  In Virginia Dignum, Frank Dignum, Jacques Ferber, Tiberiu Stratulat (eds.) Integrating Cultures. Springer. (to appear)

Conference Proceedings

Littauer, Richard, James Winters, Seán G. Roberts, Hannah Little, Michael Pleyer and Bill Benzon (2012) Academic Research in the Blogosphere: Adapting to New Risks and Opportunities on the Internet. In: Jan Christoph Meister (Ed.): Digital Humanities 2012. Conference Abstracts. University of Hamburg, July 16-22. Hamburg: Hamburg University Press, 268-269. pdf

Roberts, S. (2012) There’s no such thing as language: Arguments against the evolution of a bilingual faculty. University of Edinburgh Linguistics and English Language Conference 2012. abstract video

Roberts, S. (2012) An evolutionary approach to bilingualism. Proceedings of the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association Annual Meeting 2012, Durham. poster supplementary material

Roberts, S. (2012) A bottom-up approach to Language Evolution. In T. C. Scott-Phillips, M. Tamariz, E.A. Cartmill & J.R. Hurford, The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 9th International Conference (EVOLANG9). World Scientific. p.523 abstract poster supplementary material

Tamariz, M., Cornish, H., Roberts, S. & Kirby, S. (2012) The effect of generation turnover and intelocutor negotiation on linguistic structure. In T. C. Scott-Phillips, M. Tamariz, E.A. Cartmill & J.R. Hurford, The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 9th International Conference (EVOLANG9). World Scientific. p. 555

Roberts, S. & Winters, J. (2012) Constructing Knowledge: Nomothetic approaches to language evolution. In L. McCrohon, T. Fujimura, K. Fujita, R. Martin, K. Okanoya, R. Suzuki, N. Yusa, Five Approaches to Language Evolution: Proceedings of the Workshops of the 9th International Conference on the Evolution of Language. Evolang9 Organizing Committee. pdf

Winters, J. & Roberts, S. (2012) Proving anything is possible in the dataverse: Limitations of the nomothetic approach to social science. Digital Scholarship: a day of ideas, Digital HSS, University of Edinburgh.more details poster

Roberts, S. (2011) Developing mutual exclusivity in the lab. Proceedings of the 7th Workshop on Bilingualism: Neurolinguistic and Psycholinguistic Perspectives, Aix-en-Provence, 2011. pdf

Roberts, S. (2011) Language Evolution and the Acacia Tree.  Speculative Grammarian, CLXII, 4. Online here

Roberts, S. (2011) The development of mutual exclusivity.  Proceedings of the 10th Psycholinguistics in Flanders workshop, Antwerp, 2011. pdf

Roberts, S. (2010). Language and Memory: Why Siestas affect Morphology.  Language at Edinburgh Lunch, 2010. pdf

Roberts, S. (2010). The Evolution of Bilingualism.   Proceedings of the 2010 LEL Postgraduate conference, University of Edinburgh.   video!

Roberts, S. (2010). Mutual Exclusivity in the Naming Game.  Language at Edinburgh Lunch, 2010. pdf

Roberts, S. (2010). Second Language Acquisition and Social Co-ordination.  Proceedings of the Language as Social Coordination: An Evolutionary Perspective, Warsaw, Poland.

Scott-Phillips, T. C., Hurford, J. R., Roberts, G. and Roberts, S., (2010). Pragmatics not semantics as the basis for clause structure, in A. D. M. Smith, K. Smith, B. de Boer and M. Schouwstra (eds.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on the Evolution of Language, Singapore: World Scientific, p.491-492

Roberts, S. (2009). Welsh mutation and lexical dispersion. Proceedings of the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association Confrence, 2009. pdf

Roberts, S. (2009). Word Complexity Predicts Rates of Lexical Evolution.  Language at Edinburgh Lunch, 2009. pdf

Research assistance

I have been a research assistant on the following projects:

  • Hung, W. (2011) Investigation into the underlying linguistic cues of Chinese synaesthesia. PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh.
  • King, R. (2011). Exploring expressivity: A closer look at the evolution of linguistic structure. Master’s thesis, University of Edinburgh.
  • Line, P. (2010). Horizontal cultural transmission of language: Investigating iterated learning with human dyads. Master’s thesis, University of Edinburgh.
  • Murray, L. (2010). Iterated learning with human sub jects: Adding communication and feedback. Master’s thesis, University of Edinburgh.
  • Simner, J., Cuskley, C. & Kirby, S. (2010) What sound does that taste? Cross-modal mappings across gustation and audition. Perception 39, 553 - 569

Professional Service




I have been an English language teacher in China, Romania and Spain.

I organised the bi-monthly Language at Edinburgh Lunch 2009-2010.

I organised the 2010 Linguistics Postgraduate Conference at the University of Edinburgh.

I tutor 1st year Linguistics and courses in First Language Acquisition and Second Language Acquisition.

I was awarded a scholarship to attend the 2011 Complex Systems Summer School at the Santa Fe Institute.

I was the PhD Representative for the school of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences.

I co-wrote and presented an Edinburgh International Science Festival show, Robot Thought II,on Evolving Robots in 2008 in conjunction with EPSRC (report) and the Institute for Perception, Action and Behaviour with Barbara Webb. Some press coverage

I ran a course on programming for children in the Edinburgh International Science Festival in 2009 using Scratch.

I organised the 2012 LEC academic retreat

I organised and ran a course on using Latex for Linguistics through a PPLS Training and Development Grants Scheme.

I am currently working on a Knowledge Exchange project with Justin Quillinan and Edinburgh Zoo.

I have been a research assistant on the following projects:

  • Hung, W. (2011) Investigation into the underlying linguistic cues of Chinese synaesthesia. PhD thesis, University of Edinburgh.
  • King, R. (2011). Exploring expressivity: A closer look at the evolution of linguistic structure. Master’s thesis, University of Edinburgh.
  • Line, P. (2010). Horizontal cultural transmission of language: Investigating iterated learning with human dyads. Master’s thesis, University of Edinburgh.
  • Murray, L. (2010). Iterated learning with human subjects: Adding communication and feedback. Master’s thesis, University of Edinburgh.
  • Simner, J., Cuskley, C. & Kirby, S. (2010) What sound does that taste? Cross-modal mappings across gustation and audition. Perception 39, 553 - 569

Stuff




I play guitar and bass, I was in a band called The Captains, then Feedback, recently reformed as Those in Peril Out in Space.

I entered the Sci-Fi London 48 hour film challenge with an entry called Catch Up.