Dan Dediu

Dan Dediu

Universitat de Barcelona


I always liked computers, so I first studied Mathematics and Computer Science (1993-1997) and I worked as a software engineer (1997-2004). But humans also fascinate me, so I started studying Psychology (1996-1998) and I hold an MSc in Neurobiology and Behaviour (2000-2002). In 2007 I obtained a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Edinburgh (2004-2007), followed by a series of postdoctoral positions in Edinburgh (ESRC UK, 2007-2008) and at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen (2008-2017), the latter including an NWO VIDI grant (2012-2017). In 2017 I moved to Lyon, first as EURIAS Fellow of the Collegium de Lyon (2017-2018) and then as an IDEXLyon Fellow with the Laboratoire Dynamique du Langage, Université Lyon 2 (2018-2021), where I obtained my Habilitation (2021). In October 2021 I became ICREA Research Professor with the University of Barcelona.

Research interests

My research is quite diverse, including the processes that shape linguistic diversity, the origins and evolution of language in the context of human evolution, and the application of quantitative and computational methods to the language sciences. In particular, I have been focusing on studying the influence of non-linguistic factors on linguistic diversity, such as the effect of vocal tract anatomy on phonetics and phonology, the effect of the bio-physical environment on language spread and on the color vocabulary, and of population genetics on linguistic tone, using statistics and computer modelling. I have been arguing that language and speech are an old feature of our evolutionary lineage, being shared, in some form, with our cousins, the Neanderthals and the Denisovans.

Selected publications

– Anselme R, Pellegrino F & Dediu D 2023, ‘What’s in the r? A review of the usage of the r symbol in the Illustrations of the IPA’. Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 53, 3, 1003-1032.
Dediu D 2023, ‘Ultraviolet light affects the color vocabulary: Evidence from 834 languages‘, Frontiers in Psychology, vol. 14, 1143283.
– Gisladottir RS, Helgason A, Halldorsson BV, Helgason H, Borsky M, Chien Y-R, Gudnason J, Gudjonsson SA, Moisik S, Dediu D, Thorleifsson G, Tragante V, Bustamante M, Jonsdottir GA, Stefansdottir L, Rutsdottir G, Magnusson SH, Hardarson M, Ferkingstad E, Halldorsson GH, Rognvaldsson S, Skuladottir A, Ivarsdottir EV, Norddahl G, Thorgeirsson G, Jonsdottir I, Ulfarsson MO, Holm H, Stefansson H, Thorsteinsdottir U, Gudbjartsson DF, Sulem P, Stefansson K 2023, ‘Sequence variants affecting voice pitch in humans‘, Science Advances, vol. 9, no. 23, pp eabq2969.
Dediu D, Lin J, Moisik SR & Moran S 2023, ‘Dental fricatives: Patterning, evolution, and factors affecting a rare class of speech sounds‘. In Karakostis, FA & Jäger, G (Eds) Biocultural Evolution: An Agenda for Integrative Approaches, 143–178. Tübingen: Kerns Verlag.

Selected research activities

On the one hand, 2023 represented the effective end of my highly successful IDEXLyon project in Lyon (France), with the defense of Mathilde Josserand’s PhD thesis in December. On the other, 2023 also marked, in a symbolic way, my “full” integration in the Spanish and Catalan academic system, with the supervision of my first Master’s Theses, the acquisition of my first grant (a “Proyecto de generación de conocimiento”) that includes a PhD position (due to start in March 2024), and the beginning of another PhD co-supervision, all of these here, at the University of Barcelona.