Here is information on our forthcoming workshop on the place of pragmatics in the evolution of language. We have now confirmed the programme which you can download here:

And here is a version with abstracts:

The workshop takes place on 4 and 5 September 2022. The 4 September session will be online. The 5 September sessions are hybrid.

Please register here to confirm attendance and receive information on how to join virtually:

To attend the sessions in person on 5 September, you will also need to register for the conference here:

The workshop is organised by Northumbria colleagues Andrew Feeney and Billy Clark. It is part of the Joint Conference on Language and Evolution taking place in Kanazawa, Japan, and online, 4-8 September 2022.

The conference is the first one jointly organised by Evolang, Protolang and Evolinguistics, the three largest organisations in this area. It will be a huge and hugely significant, event for researchers interested in the evolution of language and communication.

Here’s some more information and the call for papers.


The place of Pragmatics in the evolution of language: first, last or in parallel?

Organised by:

Andrew Feeney Billy Clark @billylinguist   

Confirmed Speakers:

Andrew Feeney, Department of Humanities, Northumbria University, United Kingdom

Christophe Heintz, Social Mind Center, Department of Cognitive Science, Central European University, Budapest.

Nikolaus Ritt, School of English Linguistics, Vienna University

Thom Scott-Phillips, Social Mind Center, Department of Cognitive Science, Central European University, Budapest


This hybrid workshop aims to bring together researchers working with an explicit focus on the role of pragmatics in the evolutionary emergence of language. We argue that a spotlight on pragmatic competence is not only to be welcomed, but is indispensable in understanding the emergence and evolution of language as a tool of communication in the hominin clade. For the purposes of this workshop we take it as axiomatic that pragmatic competence is fundamental to language in which ‘communication depends upon the ability of human beings to attribute mental states to others’ (Origgi and Sperber, 2004). However a number of questions arise before the nature of the pragmatic role in language evolution can be fully established, and it is these that we seek to address in this Workshop:

  • to what extent was pragmatic competence foundational to the emergence of language?
  • were the earliest forms of language (protolanguage in the literature) more akin to the vocal or gestural communication systems seen in other species, before human-type pragmatic aspects of cognition were in place?
  • what is the balance between biological and socio-cultural factors in the nature and evolutionary development of these cognitive processes?
  • can the answer to these questions shed light on the fundamental question of when language first appeared in humans or one of our ancestral species?
  • what constitutes evidence and what methodological forms of inquiry are most appropriate in the exploration of evolutionary cognitive and linguistic pragmatics?

Workshop homepage:


Andrew Feeney   

Billy Clark