The 7th International Conference “Ways to Protolanguage” ( is going to take place at the University of Düsseldorf from Sept 6 to Sept 8, 2021. The thematic focus of Protolang is on delineating the socio-cultural, semiotic, symbolic, ecological, genetic, anatomical and neuro-cognitive requirements for evolving (proto)language. Sign use, tools, cooperative breeding, pointing, vocalisation, intersubjectivity, bodily mimesis, planning and navigation are among many examples of such possible factors through which hominins have gained a degree of specificity that is not found in other forms of animal communication and cognition. We aim at identifying the proximate and ultimate causes as well as the mechanisms by which these requirements evolved; evaluating the methodologies, research tools and simulation techniques; and enabling extended and vigorous exchange of ideas across disciplinary borders.

Keynote speakers of Protolang 7 and their main research areas:

  • Michel DeGraff (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
    Linguistic theory, creole studies, language and education
  • Katja Liebal (Leipzig University)
    Human biology and primate cognition
  • Asifa Majid (University of York)
    Psychology of language and communication
  • Albert Newen (Ruhr University Bochum)
    Philosophy of mind
  • Cailin O’Connor (University of California Irvine)
    Philosophy of science and evolutionary game theory
  • Asli Ozyurek (Max-Planck-Institute for Psycholinguistics Nijmegen)
    Multimodal language processing

We invite scholars from linguistics, behavioral science, cognitive science and related disciplines to contribute experimental and theoretical research. Please submit abstracts of up to 500 words, excl. references, via easychair ( There are no speficic formatting guidelines for abstracts at this point, except that they should be fully anonymous.

  • Deadline for submission: February 15th 28th 2021
  • Notification: March 2021

Multiple submissions: Any individual may submit up to two single-authored or first-authored abstracts. There are no limits for co-authored abstracts.

Note on Covid-19:
We are very much aware that it is currently far from clear whether Protolang 7 can take place as a physical conference. We still plan for an on-site conference with an option to participate online, but are prepared to make it a fully virtual conference if necessary.