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New Work  

This page will profile work in progress and my recent talks and provide a link to the material where that is available. For a list of recent publications see Publications. 

Forthcoming article

Recent Talks

Language, Affectivity and Aesthetic Values: a talk at Centre for Research on language Contact and Department of English Studies, Glendon College, York University, Toronto, Oct. 25th, 2012. See video link.

‘Communication and Culture in the Built Environment? An analysis of how the mind/brain understands architecture’, paper given at Spring Research Seminar, School of Language and Communication Studies, UEA Norwich, 20/2/12.

Recent Papers

(1) Religion, Cognition and Relevant Mysteries : A revised version of a talk given at National Sun Yat-sen University, Kaohsiung, Taiwan 22/9/11.

(2) ‘Complexity, Relevance and the Emergence of Culture’(2012) in M-Y Tseng (ed.) Investigating Language at the Interface. Kaohsiung, Taiwan: Center for the Humanities, National Sun Yat-sen University. ISPN: 978-986-03-2000-1

A revised version of a keynote speech delivered at the 12 National Conference on Linguistics, National Sun Yat-sen University, September 23, 2011.


The purpose of this inter-disciplinary study is to propose a theory of culture; what it is, how it arises from the information processing of mind/brains, its noisy turbulence and our consequent collective inability to fully predict, understand and control our thoughts and actions in the unfolding of history. The strategy is to bring together Sperber and Wilson’s (1995) relevance pragmatics and the new sciences of complexity in order to gain insight into the emergence of collective culture from individual acts of communication. It begins by explaining and illustrating the relevance theory of cognition and communication and Sperber’s (1996) epidemiological approach to culture while interpreting both these in terms of cultural emergence. It concludes with an exploratory attempt to re-analyze relevance principles quantitatively in terms of the mathematical concept of algorithmic complexity and hence gain a new information theoretic perspective on cultural emergence. This further develops the cognitive pragmatics of culture in Downes (2011).




Downes, W. (2011) Language and Religion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sperber, D. (1996) Explaining Culture. Oxford: Blackwell.

Sperber, D. and Wilson, D. (1995) Relevance. Oxford: Blackwell.

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