From the Middle East in medieval times to rare languages and fruitfly behaviour

Three Gates Cambridge Scholars will talk about their research in an internal symposium this week.

Three Gates Cambridge Scholars will speak this week about their research into medieval interfaith and intercultural exchange in the Middle East, rare languages where there are no rules on the word order in sentences and fruit fly larva's ability to adapt their behaviour through experience.

The three - Nick Posegay, Matt Malone and Kristina Klein - will take part in the Lent Term Internal Symposium on 26th February.

Nick's talk is entitled Common Tongues, Common Problems: Linguistic Exchange in the Medieval Middle East. He says the Middle East today can seem very divided in terms of language, religion, ethnicity and nationality. Such differences, he says, can make the political and social issues facing the region today appear rooted in eternal sectarian conflicts that have little hope of resolution. He will speak about evidence from the medieval period which suggest the existence of a civilisation in which interfaith and intercultural exchange was the norm, rather than an exception. Nick [2017], who is doing a PhD in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, says: "The stark divisions of the modern day have not always defined the Middle East, and perhaps they need not define it in the future."

Matt's talk, Languages Without Word Order?, will describe the small group of "non-configurational" languages which lack a verb phrase structure, meaning any word order is grammatical. Matt [2018], who is doing an MPhil in Theoretical and Applied Linguistics, will attempt to answer the question of whether the word order of languages can ever be entirely free.

In her talk, Neural Circuits of Operant Learning in Drosophila larva, Kristina  [2016], who is doing a PhD in Zoology, will talk about her research into operant learning - whereby animals learn from the consequences of their behaviour. Although operant learning has been observed across the animal kingdom, the underlying neural circuits are not fully understood. She is studying Drosophila larva using a multi-animal tracker with behaviour detection and closed-loop optogenetic stimulation. She says: "We show that larvae are indeed capable of operant learning, and we provide first insight into the underlying neural mechanisms."

*The symposium takes place in the Gates Scholars Common Room from 7:30pm. Scholars and their guests are welcome. Picture credit of Caribbean fruit fly (Anastrepha suspensa) larvae on fruit by Jeffrey Weston Lotz, Florida Department of Agriculture.