Animal Utterance: 25th – 26th May 2017, University of Bristol

The cognitive biologist, W. Tecumseh Fitch begins The Evolution of Language (2010) with the Persian tale of the ‘elephant in the dark house’: each villager touches a different part of the animal and tries to describe what its shape is ‘like’, but none can see, or comprehend, the whole. This parable, as Fitch suggests, raises questions that are particularly pertinent to those who seek to understand such a vast and complex faculty as language. This series of interdisciplinary events at The University of Bristol invites scholars to share their knowledge of the different parts of the animal.

These events draw together recent research in the Arts and Humanities, which has emphasised the difficulties of translating non-human sounds into human forms of signification—words, music, poetry—with recent groundbreaking studies of animal communication in cognitive biology, psychology and linguistics. Join us for a series of talks, workshops, evening events and musical performances with the jazz clarinetist, composer and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy and Music, David Rothenberg (Why Birds Sing, 2005; Berlin Bülbül, 2016).

Invited speakers, guests and performers: IAS Benjamin Meaker Visiting Professor David Rothenberg (Professor of Music and Philosophy, New Jersey Institute of Technology), W. Tecumseh Fitch (Professor of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna), Stephanie Kuduk Weiner (Professor of English, Wesleyan University), Johan J. Bolhuis (Professor of Cognitive Neurobiology, Utrecht University), Daniel Karlin (Professor of English, University of Bristol), Martin Everaert (Professor of Linguistics, Utrecht University), Experimental Psychologist, Dr. Nina Kazanina (University of Bristol), Computational Neuroscientist, Dr. Conor Houghton (University of Bristol), artist Andy Holden (Tate) and his father, the ornithologist Peter Holden (MBE), and Philip Hoare (author and Professor of Creative Writing, University of Southampton).

Registration closes this Friday 19th May and booking is available through our website: