Language-like Signaling and Representation in Biological Systems

Project: Research project

Grant Program

Faculty Development Competitive Research Grant Program 2019-2021

Project Description

Biological systems employ communication at every level, from intracellular regulatory gene networks through intercellular signaling and all the way to human language. From a pre-theoretical perspective it is attractive to liken several of the lower-level communication systems to human language: they function to transmit information; they influence the receivers' behavior; they coordinate the behavior of senders and receivers; they can be correct or incorrect, reliable or misleading; and they often perform their functions by combining signals in a way resembles language. This project will investigate the extent and the degree to which communication in biological systems is language-like.
To this end the project will make extensive use of formal and computational modeling, in order to transfer concepts and knowledge from philosophy and cognitive science to the life sciences.
Effective start/end date1/31/1912/31/21


Biological systems
Communication systems


  • semantics
  • pragmatics
  • teleosemantics
  • signaling
  • animal communication
  • genetic programs
  • recursion
  • computational modeling