Lindell Bromham

Lindell Bromham is an evolutionary biologist, whose work focusses on the tempo and mode of evolutionary change across many timescales and levels of biological organisation, from the role of mutation in shaping genomic change over generations to the processes driving the diversification of lineages over hundreds of millions of years.

In addition to work within evolutionary biology, Lindell has an established track record of interdisciplinary collaborations, ranging across projects with artists, philosophers, linguists, writers, mathematicians, medical researchers and veterinarians. One example of this interdisciplinary work is adapting a biodiversity metric to comparing the relative interdisciplinarity of research proposals, demonstrating that interdisciplinary proposals have consistently lower funding success.

A key research focus of the last 5 years has been adapting analytical methods from evolutionary biology to investigating the patterns and processes of language change. This has led to collaborations with linguists investigating the effect of population size on rates of lexical turnover (sister pairs comparisons), change in language variants over three generations in an Australian language (Wright-Fisher models) and patterns of global language diversity (macroecological analysis).  Current work includes identification of factors that increase rates of loss of indigenous languages, both at local and global scales.

Lindell’s work in cultural evolution focusses on shaping interesting and testable questions and developing robust analytical frameworks analyzing cross-cultural data. Broad questions such as “why do hot countries have spicy food?” or “do parasites drive human cultural evolution?” provide a vehicle for exploring the way that evolutionary processes shape patterns of cultural similarities and differences, and developing new ways of testing hypotheses that avoid known statistical traps like “Galton’s problems”.

Prof Bromham can be contacted via email.

More information about Lindell’s work:

Research area/theme
Relevant publications

Bromham L (2021) Solving Galton’s problem: practical solutions for analysing language diversity and evolution. Historical Linguistics in press. 

Bromham L (2020) Comparability in evolutionary biology: the case of Darwin’s barnacles. Linguistic Typology (Special Issue on Comparability), 

Roberts SG, Killin A, Deb A, Sheard C, Greenhill SJ, Sinnemäki K, Segovia-Martín J, Nölle J, Berdicevskis A, Humphreys-Balkwill A, Little H, Opie C, Jacques G, Bromham L, Tinits P, Ross RM, Lee S, Gasser E, Calladine J, Spike M, Mann SF, Shcherbakova O, Singer R, Zhang S, Benítez-Burraco A, Kliesch C, Thomas-Colquhoun E, Skirgård H, Tamariz M, Passmore S, Pellard T, Jordan F (2020) CHIELD: the causal hypotheses in evolutionary linguistics database. Journal of Language Evolution lzaa001, 

Bromham L, Hua X, Algy C, Meakins F (2020) Language endangerment: A multidimensional analysis of risk factors. Journal of Language Evolution 5(1): 75-91, 

Bromham L, Cardillo M (2019) Origins of biodiversity: an introduction to macroevolution and macroecology. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 9780199608713

Hua X, Greenhill SJ, Cardillo M, Schneemann H, Bromham L (2019) The ecological drivers of variation in global language diversity. Nature Communications, 10: 2047. PDF

Meakins F, Hua X, Algy C, Bromham L (2019) Birth of a contact language did not favour simplification. Language, 95 95 DOI – 10.1353/lan.2019.0032   

Bromham L,  Hua X, Cardillo M, Schneemann H, Greenhill SJ (2018) Parasites and politics: why cross-cultural studies must control for relatedness, proximity and covariation. Royal Society Open Science 5: 181100 

Greenhill SJ, Hua X, Welsh CF, Schneemann H, Bromham L (2018) Population size and the rate of language evolution: a test across Indo-European, Austronesian and Bantu languages. Frontiers in Psychology, 9:576 

Bromham L (2017) Curiously the same: swapping tools between linguistics and evolutionary biology. Biology & Philosophy 32(6):855–886, DOI10.1007/s10539-017-9594-y

Bromham L, Dinnage R, Hua X (2016) Interdisciplinary research has consistently lower funding success. Nature 534: 684–687 

Bromham L (2016) An introduction to molecular evolution and phylogenetics. Oxford University Press, Oxford. ISBN 978-0-19-873636-3

Bromham L (2016) Testing hypotheses in macroevolution. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 55: 47-59

Cardillo M, Bromham L, Greenhill SJ (2015)  Links between language diversity and species richness can be confounded by spatial autocorrelation. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B282: 20142986. 

Bromham L, Hua X, Fitzpatrick TG, Greenhill SJ (2015)  Rate of language evolution is affected by population size. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 112(7):  2097–2102 

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