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Source: Lakehead University

Orillia Community Gets Chance to Dialogue with Professors at Lakehead U

October 24, 2006

Lecture Series offers wide range of topics – from primates to sleep disorders
The Orillia community is getting a chance to "meet the professors". The Lakehead University – Orillia Campus has launched the Meet the Professors Lecture Series this month. The second installation takes place this Thursday, October 26, at 7 p.m. at Heritage Place.

Professor Derek Irwin, Professor of English, will give a talk entitled "From Primate to Primate: how bonobos and humans converse."

The talk will introduce Irwin’s work in the linguistic analysis of dialogues between bonobo chimpanzees and their caretakers. It will begin by explaining some of the basic methods of analyzing human conversations, and then demonstrate the type of system network we use to code such conversations.

"In looking at cross-species communication, the presentation is ultimately meant to raise some very important questions on language as a uniquely human phenomenon, as it is described by many linguists and linguistic groups," says Irwin. "In short, it is possible to make an argument that language is restricted to homo sapiens. In order to answer this, it is necessary to define ‘language’ solely in terms of what humans can do that other species cannot. This is a form of circular reasoning which leads us to overlook the phenomenal achievements that some of our closest relatives are capable of. In doing so, we may overlook how language was able to develop to such a marvellous degree in our own species."

Irwin joined Lakehead fresh from a conference in Brazil where he discussed grammar and linguistics. He has a particular interest in analyzing the origins of language structure in unusual settings, including the grammar of non-verbal infants and Bonobo monkeys. He is also an expert on Canadian Literature and the evolution of Canadian English. Irwin teaches Inquiry and English.

This lecture series, which started on Oct. 12 with Dr. Glenn Legault, Professor of Psychology and Chemistry, speaking on sleep and sleep disorders, is designed to give the community in Orillia the opportunity to visit the campus and learn about the various areas of expertise found within the Orillia Campus faculty. This is a free event, and members of the public are welcome to attend. The next event takes place on November 8. For more information on this or any other lecture, please call 705- 329-4298.



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