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Language Origins:
Did Language Evolve Like the Vertebrate Eye, or Was It More Like Bird Feathers?

(Released December 2003)

  by Christopher Croom  


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  1. Minimizing the Genes for Grammar. The Minimalist Program as a Biological Framework for the Study of Language

    Lorenzo, Guillermo; Longa, Victor M

    Lingua, 2003, 113, 7, July, 643-657

    This paper examines the main ideas of the Minimalist Program (MP) with the aim of evaluating its virtues as a biological framework for the understanding of human language. Our conclusions are basically three. First, the MP favors a certain reconciliation between the abstract characterization of language & characterizations derived from other biological concerns. Second, the MP reduces the role of the genetic endowment for language & relies more on epigenetic processes, in clear agreement with other aspects of the study of the brain. Third, the MP favors an essential identification of the processes of ontogenetic & phylogenetic development of language, a rather controversial conclusion but also a very important one from a theoretical point of view. 49 References. Adapted from the source document

  2. Language Evolution: Consensus and Controversies

    Christiansen, Morten H; Kirby, Simon

    Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2003, 7, 7, July, 300-307

    Why is language the way it is? How did language come to be this way? & Why is our species alone in having complex language? These are old, unsolved questions that have seen a renaissance in the dramatic recent growth in research being published on the origins & evolution of human language. This review provides a broad overview of some of the important current work in this area. We highlight new methodologies (eg, computational modeling), emerging points of consensus (eg, the importance of pre-adaptation), & the major remaining controversies (eg, gestural origins of language). We also discuss why language evolution is such a difficult problem & suggest probable directions research may take in the near future. 1 Figure, 2 Boxes, 69 References. Adapted from the source document

  3. Rule Learning by Cotton-Top Tamarins

    Hauser, Marc D; Weiss, Daniel; Marcus, Gary

    Cognition, 2002, 86, 1, Nov, B15-B22

    Previous work suggests that human infants are capable of rapidly generalizing patterns that have been characterized as abstract algebraic rules (Marcus et al, 1999), a process that may play a pivotal role in language acquisition. Here we explore whether this capacity is uniquely human & evolved specifically for the computational problems associated with language, or whether this mechanism is shared with other species, & therefore evolved for problems other than language. We used the same materials & methods that were originally employed in tests of human infants to assess whether cotton-top tamarin monkeys can extract abstract algebraic rules. Specifically, we habituated subjects to sequences of consonant-vowel syllables that followed one of two patterns, AAB (eg, wi wi di) or ABB (le we we). Following habituation, we presented subjects with two novel test items, one with the same pattern as that presented during habituation & one with a different pattern. Like human infants, tamarins were more likely to dishabituate to the test item with a different pattern. We conclude that the capacity to generalize rule-like patterns, at least at the level demonstrated, did not evolve specifically for language acquisition, though it remains possible that infants might use such rules during language acquisition. 2 Figures, 30 References. Adapted from the source document

  4. On the Construction of the Concept 'Language': Entrenched Conceptual Integration Networks Encountered in Evolutionary Biology and Language Evolution

    Frank, Roslyn M

    Odense Working Papers in Language and Communication, 2002, 3, 23, Aug, 55

    In recent years the relationship between language change & biological evolution has captured the attention of investigators operating in different disciplines, particularly evolutionary biology & ALife (Zeimke, 2001; Hull, 2001), as well as linguistics (Croft, 2000; Sinha, 1999), with each group often bringing radically different conceptualizations of the object under study, namely, "language" itself, to the debate. Over the centuries, meanings associated with the expression "language" have been influenced by mappings of conceptual frames & inputs from the biological sciences onto the entity referred to as "language." At the same time the prestige of the science of linguistics created a feedback mechanism by which the referentiality of language, at each stage, was mapped back into the field of evolutionary biology along with the emergent structures of the resulting blend. While significant energy has been spent on identifying ways in which biological evolution has been linked to concepts of language evolution (Dorries, 2002), little attention has been directed to the nature of the conceptual integration networks that have been produced in the process. This paper examines the way conceptual integration theory can be brought to bear on the blends that have been created, focusing primarily on examples drawn from recent debates, eg, language viewed as "a lingueme pool" (Croft, 2000). Adapted from the source document

  5. The Potential Neandertal Vowel Space Was as Large as That of Modern Humans

    Boe, Louis-Jean; Heim, Jean-Louis; Honda, Kiyoshi; Maeda, Shinji

    Journal of Phonetics, 2002, 30, 3, July, 465-484

    Since Lieberman & Crelin (1971) postulated the theory that Neandertals "could not produce the range of sounds that characterize human speech," the potential speech capability of Neandertals has been the subject of hot debate. Lieberman & Crelin claimed that the development of a low laryngeal position was a necessary condition for the realization of a sufficient number of vocalic contrasts, since the potential vowel space was enlarged due to an enlarged pharyngeal cavity. Like newborn infants, Neandertals did not possess this "anatomical basis of speech," & therefore could not speak. Lieberman & Crelin further claimed that this fact may have caused the, otherwise mysterious, extinction of the Neandertal. In this study, we refute the articulatory & acoustic arguments developed by Lieberman & Crelin in their theory. Using a new anthropomorphic articulatory model, we infer that the vowel space of the Neandertal male was no smaller than that of a modern human, & we present vowel simulations to corroborate this hypothesis. Our study is strictly limited to the morphological & acoustic aspects of the vocal tract, & we cannot therefore offer any definitive answer to the question of whether Neandertals spoke or not. However, we do feel safe in claiming that Neandertals were not morphologically handicapped for speech. A low larynx (& large pharynx) cannot be considered to be the "anatomical prerequisites for producing the full range of human speech." There is, therefore, no reason to believe that the lowering of the larynx & a concomitant increase in pharynx size are necessary evolutionary preadaptations for speech. 4 Tables, 8 Figures, 57 References. [Copyright 2002 Academic Press.]

  6. The Selection of Languages: Darwinism and Linguistics

    Bergounioux, Gabriel

    Langages, 2002, 146, June, 7-18

    The mutual interrelationship between the Darwinian theory & linguistics is explored, considering, from a historical perspective, how one scientific paradigm influenced the other. The fragile status of linguistics as a scientific field of inquiry & academic discipline at the time of the publication of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species (1876) is noted, describing the history-oriented grammar based on both anthropology & comparative mythology, which was practiced in France & Germany. The attractiveness of the ideas expounded in Darwin's treatise to linguists is noted, identifying the concepts particularly fertile for linguistic reinterpretation. August Schleicher's (1868) & Arsene Darmesteter's (1886) linguistic Darwinism is outlined. The reflection of contemporary, 19th-century linguistic ideas in Darwin's The Descent of Man (1871) is illustrated with some of the English naturalist's linguistic conjectures. The impact of the Darwinian theory on 20th-century linguistics is recognized, quoting & critiquing the major tenets of the neo-Darwinian paradigm. 34 References. Adapted from the source document

  7. The Emergence of Phonological Systems

    Carre, Rene

    Langages, 2002, 146, June, 70-79

    An acoustic tube model is proposed to account for the origin of sound communication between humans. It is demonstrated how an 18-centimeter-long tube deforms automatically to produce sounds with both economy of effort & maximum acoustic contrast between phonemic units. Air flow functions predict precisely the production (articulation) places for vowels & consonants & identify the physical bases for phonological distinctions. A comparison with human speech organs demonstrates a significant overlap between the modeled conduit & articulation physiology. Significant parallels & phoneme correspondences obtain between the computed sound trajectories & languages with different vowel systems. 4 Figures, 28 References. Adapted from the source document

  8. The Shannon Function of Language: A Clue to Its Evolution

    Dessalles, Jean-Louis

    Langages, 2002, 146, June, 101-111

    It is argued that communication of salient events was the principal mechanism responsible for language development & the single factor responsible for its evolutionary transition from prelanguage to protolanguage to language stages. This hypothesis provides an alternative account to Derek Bickerton's (1990) theory of language origin in which protolanguage was devoid of syntactic organization while this functional component was added at the stage of natural languages as we know them today. The term "Shannon function" is proposed for designating this pragmatic characteristic of human communicative behavior, referring to Claude Elwood Shannon's (1948) communication theory in which the probability of informing about salient events can be computed using a mathematical formula. Evidence is produced from child language acquisition & adults' spontaneous verbal interactions to demonstrate that the Shannon behavior can still be observed in modern humans today. The following, three-phase scenario is proposed for the development of human language: (1) the emergence of prelanguage based on deictic gesticulation & isolated words to refer to salient events immediately perceptible, (2) the emergence of protolanguage in which word meanings are combined to evoke salient events absent but verifiable, & (3) the emergence of language proper facilitating references to salient events both absent & nonverifiable. 1 Appendix, 26 References. Adapted from the source document

  9. Homo narrans: The Role of Narration in the Emergence of Language

    Victorri, Bernard

    Langages, 2002, 146, June, 112-125

    It is argued that the narrative function is the single most responsible factor conditioning the transition from protolanguage to language proper (as we know it today) in the evolutionary history of human language. This hypothesis shares the functionalist view on language origin espoused by M. Donald (1991) & C. Knight (1991) but contests the structuralist & cognitive accounts of S. Pinker (1994) & Derek Bickerton (1998). The homo narrans theory also provides an elegant account for the mysterious disappearance of all hominid predecessors & subspecies of humans in their evolutionary history (eg, the extinction of homo sapiens neanderthalensis). According to this account, the narrative capacity of homo sapiens sapiens enabled only this species to survive the violent crises of social deregulation by creating social laws through mythical & religious discourse. Three advantages of the narrative hypothesis are pointed out: (1) It explains the peculiar syntactic & semantic properties of natural languages. (2) It is compatible with the history of the last stages of hominid evolution. (3) It accounts for the emergence of a new type of social organization specific to humans in which sociocultural laws replace the sociobiological constraints governing the animal kingdom. 51 References. Adapted from the source document

  10. The Evolution of Talk and the Emergence of Complex Society

    Zimmer, J Raymond

    Semiotica, 2002, 138, 1-4, 205-233

    A semiotic account of the evolution of language & society is argued to be reflected in the archaeological record of the last eight millennia in the Near East, Europe, & the Americas. In light of theories separating the format of language from its evolution, it is proposed that grammatical competence evolved in the format of manual-brachial gestures, termed hand talk, prior to the speciation leading to Homo sapiens. During the latter process, social selection favored the addition of vocal gesture or speech talk to hand talk to create a mixed format termed hand speech that acted as a cognitive brake on social development beyond the undifferentiated village level. Hand speech was characteristic of Homo sapiens until the developed Neolithic period, when speech-alone talk was adopted as a technical innovation motivated by increased power & wealth & potentiated the emergence of complex societies. 104 References. J. Hitchcock


    Smith, Neil

    viii+150pp, UK: Blackwell, 2002

    This book presents a series of essays on language concerns such as human knowledge & use of language, political correctness, & the linguistic abilities of chimpanzees. Bibliog. Adapted from the source document

  12. Some Features That Make Mirror Neurons and Human Language Faculty Unique

    Stamenov, Maxim I

    MIRROR NEURONS AND THE EVOLUTION OF BRAIN AND LANGUAGE, Stamenov, Maxim I., & Gallese, Vittorio [Eds], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 249-271

    Mirror neuron systems are argued to implement resonance-based attunement to a class of actions, ie, a direct rapport between agent's & observer's body members acting in the here-&-now; mirror neurons track action per se, & there is no evidence from current studies that agent & observer are either distinguished or subsequently identified through the discharge of mirror neurons. Consequently, the fitness of mirror neuron systems for communication is called into question; there is no correspondence with the properties of the linguistic self-actor or the transitive patient, & the structure of the action that is enacted/echoed by mirror neurons is rigid & cannot be extended in the manner of syntactic structures. The basic evolutionary function of mirror neurons is to simulate a programmed action, predicting its consequences & thereby achieving a superior control strategy. The event structure, theta structure, & syntactic structure of a verbally coded event involve multiple mapping with massive feedback & -forward processes in working memory & require a totally different cognitive architecture from mirror neuron systems. 26 References. J. Hitchcock

  13. On the Pre-Linguistic Origins of Language Processing Rates

    Barker, Marjorie; Givon, T

    THE EVOLUTION OF LANGUAGE OUT OF PRE-LANGUAGE, Givon, T., & Malle, Bertram F. [Eds], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 171-214

    In light of evidence from oral communication data, psycholinguistic experiments, & neurological activation measurements showing that clauses & lexical words are processed at a remarkably stable rate of 1.0 sec & 250 msec respectively, the possibility that these rates reflect prelinguistic constraints on visual information processing is investigated in two experiments designed to test hypotheses that episodic memory will decay rapidly at presentation rates below 1 sec for individual events & 250 msec for individual objects. Cartoon sequence stimuli were used in experiment 1 (N = 50) to present core events of stories & in experiment 2 (N = 35) to present individual events with varied participants; presentation rates were varied from 2 sec to 32 msec per cartoon, & after a distractor task Ss retold stories in experiment 1 & recalled participants in experiment 2. Results confirm that the rhythms of conscious/episodic recall of visual events & objects substantially coincide with those of clause & word processing, respectively. 12 Appendixes, 42 References. J. Hitchcock

  14. Looking for Neural Answers to Linguistic Questions

    Bichakjian, Bernard H

    MIRROR NEURONS AND THE EVOLUTION OF BRAIN AND LANGUAGE, Stamenov, Maxim I., & Gallese, Vittorio [Eds], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 323-331

    It is argued that a true understanding of language can only be achieved in terms of evolution & that linguists therefore need to become familiar with evolutionary reasoning, just as evolutionists need to be knowledgeable about pervasive changes in human language over the last 10,000 years; eg, the unidirectional development of head-last order to head-first order, when viewed from an evolutionary perspective, is explained as a shift from a holistic perceptual mode characteristic of prelinguistic humans to the analytic conceptual mode of language users. Similarly, the historical reversal of the direction of writing from right-to-left to left-to-right reflects the attentional direction of the respective right & left cerebral hemispheres. It is suggested that the mirror neuron system in Broca's area was pressed into speech motor control duties as the language faculty was evolving in the left lateral frontal cortex. 1 Figure, 27 References. J. Hitchcock

  15. The Internal Structure of the Syllable: An Ontogenetic Perspective on Origins

    Davis, Barbara L; MacNeilage, Peter F

    THE EVOLUTION OF LANGUAGE OUT OF PRE-LANGUAGE, Givon, T., & Malle, Bertram F. [Eds], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 135-153

    Recent studies of infant vocalization are argued to confirm Davis & MacNeilage's hypothesis that the ontogeny of speech commences with a pattern of frame dominance, based on vocalization during repeated mandibular opening & closing movements, whereby preference is given to three intrasyllabic frames: (1) coronal consonant + front vowel, (2) dorsal consonant + back vowel, & (3) labial consonant + central vowel; in accordance with a principle of motor inertia that accounts for (1) & (2), (3) appears to reflect the resting position of the tongue. These patterns are more robust in infants' productions than in the environmental input or in the early target lexicon & are strongly confirmed across languages; it is suggested that (1-3) may represent the earliest syllable-like organization of hominid vocal production. 2 Tables, 78 References. J. Hitchcock

  16. The Clausal Structure of Linguistic and Pre-Linguistic Behavior

    Fenk-Oczlon, Gertraud; Fenk, August

    THE EVOLUTION OF LANGUAGE OUT OF PRE-LANGUAGE, Givon, T., & Malle, Bertram F. [Eds], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 215-229

    Previous studies by Fenk-Oczlon & Fenk & by other investigators are reviewed to show that the receptive processing & production of language is executed by central nervous mechanisms that evolved prelinguistically to control other activities. A universal phenomenon of human action, including work, ritual, & physical routines, is the division of behaviors or units of action into functionally related segments with optimum durations of approximately 2 sec for action units & 200-300 msec for segments & seven plus or minus two segments per action unit. This pattern of rhythmic processing is also observed across languages when the clause or intonation unit is taken as the action unit & the syllable as the segment; in Fenk-Oczlon & Fenk's (1999) survey of 34 languages, all but Japanese had perception & production rates of 5-9 syllables per clause. Implications of a negative cross-linguistic correlation of syllable duration & syllable complexity are considered in this connection. 1 Figure, 52 References. J. Hitchcock

  17. The Visual Information-Processing System as an Evolutionary Precursor of Human Language

    Givon, T

    THE EVOLUTION OF LANGUAGE OUT OF PRE-LANGUAGE, Givon, T., & Malle, Bertram F. [Eds], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 3-50

    In light of debate between extreme innatist & extreme emergentist positions on the evolution of language, it is argued that, if preexisting neural modules were enlisted for linguistic tasks, at a minimum new neural metacircuitry was necessary for coordination & switching. A functional-adaptive perspective on human communication is outlined, & the primate visual information-processing system is compared with what can reasonably be assumed regarding language-related neural circuits. It is hypothesized that three major components evolved successively from the visual information-processing system: (1) the cognitive representation modules of semantic memory & episodic memory, present in nonhuman primates & simply expanded in humans; (2) the peripheral lexical code, which was a visual-gestural system at first, constructed from preexisting systems for visual object recognition & visual representation of complex manual routines; & (3) the grammatical code, which may have preceded or followed the shift of (2) to auditory-oral coding & integrates at least six preexisting capacities, including a cross-modal lexicon & cross-modal episodic memory, a combinatorial semantics module, the manual dexterity module of (2), modality-specific working memory & executive attention systems, & perspective-shifting right cortical modules. 4 Figures, 198 References. J. Hitchcock

  18. The Co-Evolution of Language and Working Memory Capacity in the Human Brain

    Gruber, Oliver

    MIRROR NEURONS AND THE EVOLUTION OF BRAIN AND LANGUAGE, Stamenov, Maxim I., & Gallese, Vittorio [Eds], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 77-86

    Evidence that the evolution of language functions, working memory, & other human cognitive functions is linked to that of premotor cortices is provided by findings of two functional magnetic resonance imaging experiments using articulatory suppression for comparability with nonhuman primate studies. Experiment 1 (N = 11), described in Gruber (2000) & Gruber (2001), alternated a verbal item-recognition task with a letter case judgment task in three conditions: silent counting, finger tapping, & no additional task; experiment 2, described by Gruber & D. Y. Von Cramon (2001), used similar tasks & introduced variation between short-term memory of letters vs letter colors & fonts. Results indicate that visual working memory & phonological storage under articulatory suppression activate distinct prefronto-parietal networks with differential distribution through identical neural structures, suggesting an evolutionarily older multimodal working memory system with domain-specialized substructures that is shared with nonhuman primates & contrasts with the premotor speech areas that mediate verbal rehearsal & probably developed during the evolution of language. 4 Figures, 22 References. J. Hitchcock

  19. The Mirror System and Joint Action

    Knoblich, Gunther; Jordan, Jerome Scott

    MIRROR NEURONS AND THE EVOLUTION OF BRAIN AND LANGUAGE, Stamenov, Maxim I., & Gallese, Vittorio [Eds], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 115-124

    A link between the evolution of the language faculty & the capacity for joint action is suggested in light of (1) the discovery of a mirror neuron system in macaques that enables them to match peers' actions with their own & (2) macaques' inability to imitate or to participate flexibly in effective joint actions. A model for the modulation of actions in response to perceptions of the effects of others' actions is supported in a summary of experiments using a tracking task with individuals & groups (N = 35 each) under two conditions, presence vs absence of a tone for each individual key press to accelerate or decelerate the tracker on a computer screen. Results show that the acoustic signal greatly facilitated anticipatory brake rates for groups in the second & third trial blocks, compared to a minor facilitation effect for individuals across all trial blocks; this finding is interpreted as evidence that groups' actions are as well coordinated as those of individuals only when joint vs individual effects are clearly distinguishable. 5 Figures, 11 References. J. Hitchcock

  20. Missing Links, Issues and Hypotheses in the Evolutionary Origin of Language

    Li, Charles N

    THE EVOLUTION OF LANGUAGE OUT OF PRE-LANGUAGE, Givon, T., & Malle, Bertram F. [Eds], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 83-106

    As crucial evolutionary divergences from other primates limited early hominids to the open savanna, where predators & prey had developed advanced & interlocking survival skills, the new evolutionary line responded with the concomitant expansions of cognitive skills, group size, & effective communicative behavior that eventually led to the emergence of language. Pre- & post-language communicative behavior is distinguished primarily by language change; ie, language has the unique property among communicative behaviors of rapid change due to social & cultural factors instead of slow change through natural selection. Three successive evolutionary milestones led to the crystallization of language: first, the creation of symbols with meaning, ie, context-independent reference to concrete objects; second, the creation of signals symbolizing events & actions; & third, the growth of the symbol inventory to a critical mass of several hundred units, after which only a few generations would have sufficed to develop a full-fledged language with a grammar having the properties of a first-generation creole. 43 References. J. Hitchcock

  21. On the Evolutionary Origin of Language

    Li, Charles N; Hombert, Jean-Marie

    MIRROR NEURONS AND THE EVOLUTION OF BRAIN AND LANGUAGE, Stamenov, Maxim I., & Gallese, Vittorio [Eds], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 175-205

    A proposed origin of language no earlier than 60,000-80,000 years ago is supported by arguing that language was the motivating factor behind exponential increases in population, tool variety, & the sophistication of art & the settlement of Australia & New Guinea, which required the ability to traverse deep, fast-moving bodies of water. In addition to gradual evolutionary processes of reduction of the gastrointestinal tract, enlargement of the vertebral canal, descent of the larynx, & increased encephalization, three evolutionary mechanisms are held to underlie the emergence of language: the duplication of homeotic genes, the slowing of the human developmental clock, & the causal role of behavior, particularly social learning, in evolution. It is contended that the generative paradigm in contemporary linguistics has misled evolutionary scientists, as the introspective data on which generative grammar is based represents a very recent development - literacy - whereas the language that evolved 60,000 years ago is most closely approximated by authentic, unedited data of casual, everyday spoken language. 1 Figure, 51 References. J. Hitchcock

  22. The Gradual Emergence of Language

    MacWhinney, Brian

    THE EVOLUTION OF LANGUAGE OUT OF PRE-LANGUAGE, Givon, T., & Malle, Bertram F. [Eds], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 233-263

    Although language resulted from the introduction of phonological contrasts over a period from 200,000 to 50,000 years ago, it involved the construction of a system that uses the entire brain by integrating a series of abilities representing adaptations over a much longer period, beginning 4-8 million years ago with the emergence of bipedalism. Four periods of coevolution are implicated: (1) bipedalism, which stimulated neural modifications for perspective-taking with respect to manual actions, motor imitation, & action planning; (2) vocal support for social cohesion, requiring cerebral reorganization for neocortical control of face-to-face vocalization; (3) the elaboration of mimesis & theory of mind, beginning circa 2 million years ago & requiring a major expansion of brain volume to store holistic mimetic sequences; & (4) systematization of language through the development of neural linkages to make new use of expanded brain volume by integrating cognitive systems, leading to a fundamental alteration of cognition & social behavior. 98 References. J. Hitchcock

  23. The Relation between Language and Theory of Mind in Development and Evolution

    Malle, Bertram F

    THE EVOLUTION OF LANGUAGE OUT OF PRE-LANGUAGE, Givon, T., & Malle, Bertram F. [Eds], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 265-284

    It is argued that the evolution of the two human faculties of language & theory of mind took the form of an escalating interaction in which the emergence of a primitive form of theory of mind enabled that of a primitive form of language, after which advances in one faculty were repeatedly required or facilitated by advances in the other. Over a span of perhaps a few million years, three mutually reinforcing elements of a primitive theory of mind emerged, each building on the previous one(s): imitative ability, joint attention, & inferential sensitivity to desires; these elements, operating together, permitted the predictable association of objects & gestural or vocal expressions. Increased intragroup communication using the resulting highly ambiguous communication system necessitated a more elaborate theory of mind to track interactions & recognize individual differences, leading to negotiations over expressions that fostered more precision & complexity in the communication system. 80 References. J. Hitchcock

  24. Mirror Neurons, Vocal Imitation, and the Evolution of Particulate Speech

    Studdert-Kennedy, Michael

    MIRROR NEURONS AND THE EVOLUTION OF BRAIN AND LANGUAGE, Stamenov, Maxim I., & Gallese, Vittorio [Eds], Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp 207-227

    It is hypothesized that mirror neurons of the type discovered in macaques by Giacomo Rizzolatti et al (1996) exist in humans; that a mirror neuron system in humans is specialized to support facial imitation, a uniquely human capacity that involves cross-modal somatotopic representation & appears in neonates; & that vocal imitation, which appears at 0:5-0:8, has co-opted the facial mirror system. The articulatory gestural phonology developed by C. P. Browman & colleagues is outlined, & evidence is presented from Studdert-Kennedy's previous studies to show that errors in infants' imitations of words tend largely to involve gestural timing & amplitude, not activation of articulatory end-effectors. M. Meltzoff & K. Moore's (1997) active intermodal matching model of facial imitation is argued to conform well to the requirements of vocal imitation, with mirror neurons mediating between the perception of facial & articulatory gestures & the activation of coordinated movement control structures. The development of arbitrariness & particulateness that underlies language is attributed to the process of imitation, which entails the analysis, storage, & reassembly of components of an action. 2 Tables, 3 Figures, 52 References. J. Hitchcock

  25. The Language-Thought Partnership: A Bird's Eye View

    Millikan, Ruth Garrett

    Language and Communication, 2001, 21, 2, Apr, 157-166

    Two contentions concerning the connection between language & thought are explored: (1) the intentionality of both language & thought is defined separately & (2) public language is a necessary component for the establishment of human thought. After defining the notion of "proper function" as an object's survival value, it is maintained that intentionality is not connected to the proper functions of intentional states & their associated propositions. Similarities between the stabilizing function, defined as that which urges speakers to continue using a language device, of language forms & biological functions performed by bodies are discussed. The example of the dance performed by bees to indicate the presence of nectar is offered to illustrate the connection between the intentionality of biological functions & language. The need to comprehend the derived stabilizing functions of thought to understand the intentionality of thought is explained. In addition, the significance of language in establishing empirical concepts is considered; nevertheless, it is suggested that determining whether language originated prior to thought requires additional attention. 9 References. J. W. Parker

  26. Rank and Relationships in the Evolution of Spoken Language

    Locke, John L

    Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 2001, 7, 1, Mar, 37-50

    If evolutionary benefits associated with language were predominantly referential, as many theorists assume, then there must have been a preparatory stage in which an "appetite" for information, not evident in the other primates, developed. To date, no such stage has been demonstrated. The problem dissipates, however, if it is assumed that language emerged from a function more nearly shared with other primates. An obvious candidate is displaying. Here, I argue that performative functions associated with oral sound-making provided initial pressures for vocal communication by promoting rank & relationships. These benefits, I suggest, facilitated conflict avoidance & resolution, collaboration, & reciprocal sharing of needed resources. By valuing the performative applications of language, which continue in modern humans, one can more easily derive speech from the social-vocal behaviors of nonhuman primates, providing greater continuity in accounts of linguistic evolution. 106 References. Adapted from the source document

  27. On the Role of Bridge Theories in Accounts of the Evolution of Human Language

    Botha, Rudolf P

    Language and Communication, 2001, 21, 1, Jan, 61-71

    The evident paucity in the work on the evolution of language has been addressed by various strategies, including W. K. Wilkins's & J. Wakefield's (1995) reliance on paleoneurological data as the basis for their arguments concerning which species was the first to possess language capacity. The ontological gap is crossed by three small inferential jumps: (1) from data about the impressions on the interior of fossil skulls, inferences about the sulcal patterns of ancestral brains are drawn; (2) from hypotheses about the sulcal patterns are drawn inferences about neuroanatomical organization; & (3) from theories of neuroanatomy are derived theories about the brain's functional organization in general & the presence of the language capacity in particular. A distinct bridge theory is required for each of these inferential jumps, since they span different ontological domains: properties of fossil skulls & properties of the language capacity. Wilkins & Wakefield's localizational theory is reported to have been faulted by Behavioral and Brain Sciences commentators for assuming an overly detailed knowledge of brain function, a simple "localized" anatomy of cognitive functions, & a neuroanatomical map for the association of functions with neuroanatomical areas, as well as more specific oversights. In any account of the evolution of any aspect of the language capacity, not only a theory of language evolution, but also one or more bridge theories, must be included. Whereas bridge theories are obligatory components of historical accounts of language evolution, as the existing ones are poorly articulated or unjustified, the development of new bridge theories is indicated. 19 References. L. R. Hunter

  28. Human Language and Our Reptilian Brain: The Subcortical Bases of Speech, Syntax, and Thought

    Lieberman, Philip

    Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 2001, 44, 1, winter, 32-51

    A summary of Lieberman's book, Human Language and Our Reptilian Brain: The Subcortical Bases of Speech, Syntax, and Thought (Cambridge, MA: Harvard U Press, 2000), treats speech as central to human linguistic ability & claims that speech & syntax are learned skills regulated by a functional neural system that involves subcortical structures, specifically basal ganglia, in a distributed network of the same type that regulates other complex behaviors, eg, reaching for an object. The basal ganglia function to sequence the pattern generators that govern motor activity & cognitive behaviors, & specific behaviors (including problem solving & syntactic parsing) result from the activity of circuits linking segregated populations of neurons in various subcortical & neocortical parts of the brain. Voice onset disturbances in Broca's aphasia & syntax-linked sentence comprehension deficits in Broca's aphasia & Parkinson's disease are held to reflect sequencing impairments & therefore to have a subcortical locus, & both manual motor control & verbal working memory are shown to involve circuits linking Broca's area to basal ganglia. Both language & bipedal walking are learned skills dependent on the same basal ganglia structures; both are degraded in Parkinson's disease, & the circuits responsible for language & other cognitive acts are likely to have their evolutionary origin in the development of bipedalism. 63 References. J. Hitchcock

  29. The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain: A Review of Two Contrastive Views (Pinker & Deacon)

    Christensen, Ken Ramshoj

    Grazer Linguistische Studien, 2001, 55, spring, 1-20

    A comparison of accounts of the relationship between language & evolution, proposed by Steven Pinker in The Language Instinct (London, 1994) & Terrence Deacon in The Symbolic Species. The Co-evolution of Language and the Human Brain (London, 1997), addresses the "what," "where," "why," & "how" questions of language: (1) What is language? (2) Where is language in the brain? & (3) Why & how did language come to be reflected in the architecture of the brain? Charles Darwin's (1859) & Mark Baldwin's (1895) versions of human evolution are also compared, & the implications for language from Darwinian vs Baldwinian selection models are considered. The differences between language & nonlinguistic communication are explored while addressing the species specificity of language. The question of whether language is localized vs distributed in the brain is reexamined using empirical data from the literature & addressing lateralization. Pinker's & Deacon's answers to the "where," "why," & "how," questions are presented in outline, & the issues raised by both models are identified. Some conclusions are reached regarding how the principal questions posed in the debate on language & brain can be answered. 2 Figures, 31 References. Z. Dubiel

  30. Newmeyer on Chomsky in Relation to the Origin and Evolution of Language

    Longa, Victor M

    Verba, 2001, 28, 391-401

    A critical analysis of F. Newmeyer's (1998) discussion of Noam Chomsky's position on the origin & evolution of language charges that Newmeyer has failed to appreciate or even comprehend the significance of the minimalist program, which, in eliminating highly structured representations internal to the syntax & the complex machinery necessary for their integration, has also eliminated the arbitrariness & capriciousness of the relation between the articulatory-perceptual & conceptual-intentional modules of cognition. Newmeyer wrongly imputes to Chomsky the notion that language is an abrupt outcome of result of neuron packing, whereas Chomsky's view of language as an optimally designed system clearly implies that it arose from the productive union of the preexistent cognitive modules; Newmeyer is also wrong to see a contradiction between the derivative origin of the language faculty & its autonomy. 30 References. Adapted from the source document

  31. The Evolution of Language: Truth and Lies

    Clark, Stephen R L

    Philosophy, 2000, 75, 293, July, 401-421

    To address the puzzle of what type of consciousness could have preceded the emergence of language & how individuals with such a consciousness could have agreed to the conventions necessary for language, the apparent philosophical impossibility of natural language is resolved by appeal to prelinguistic public icons or ideograms as the locus for the development of a subject-predicate syntax. It is suggested that hominids first created a system of public images resembling a pidgin to call attention to elements of reality, memory, & hope; at some point, a still unspecified mutation produced children who converted their pidgin input into a system resembling a creole that had the same evolutionary utility as a modern secret language - it could be used to deceive others around them, particularly adults. The sharing of fantasy via language made it possible to conceive a distinction between the obvious world & a so-called real world & thereby to give rise to the notion of truth. Adapted from the source document

  32. On the Relation of Speech to Language

    Liberman, Alvin M; Whalen, Doug H

    Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2000, 4, 5(38), May, 187-196

    There are two widely divergent theories about the relation of speech to language. The more conventional view holds that the elements of speech are sounds that rely for their production & perception on two wholly separate processes, neither of which is distinctly linguistic. Accordingly, the primary motor & perceptual representations are inappropriate for linguistic purposes until a cognitive process of some sort has connected them to language & to each other. The less conventional theory takes the speech elements to be articulatory gestures that are the primary objects of both production & perception. Those gestures form a natural class that serves a linguistic function & no other. Therefore, their representations are immediately linguistic, requiring no cognitive intervention to make them appropriate for use by the other components of the language system. The unconventional view provides the more plausible answers to three important questions: (1) How was the necessary parity between speaker & listener established & maintained during evolution? (2) How does speech meet the special requirements that underlie its ability, unique among natural communication systems, to encode an indefinitely large number of meanings? (3) What biological properties of speech make it easier than the reading & writing of its alphabetic transcription? 85 References. Adapted from the source document

  33. Discussing the Evolution of the Assorted Beasts Called Language

    Botha, Rudolf P

    Language and Communication, 2000, 20, 2, Apr, 149-160

    A critique of contributions to Approaches to the Evolution of Language (Hurford, James, Studdert-Kennedy, & Knight, Chris [Eds], Cambridge: CU Press, 1998) focuses on the failure of many of the participants in the 1996 Edinburgh conference on language evolution represented in this volume to characterize clearly what is meant by language. Eleven ontologically different uses of the term "language" are exemplified to reflect the lack of consensus on what language is; it is argued that this opacity results in disconnected, inconclusive discussions of the continuity or discontinuity of language evolution & of its gradualness or abruptness. Resolution of these issues is held to be impossible while opposing sides differ in their view of language as a communication system vs a mental entity or their adherence to government & binding theory vs the minimalist program. 27 References. J. Hitchcock

  34. Imitation and the Emergence of Segments

    Studdert-Kennedy, Michael

    Phonetica, 2000, 57, 2-4, Apr-Dec, 275-283

    The paper argues that the discrete phonetic segments on which language is raised are subjective gestural structures that emerge ontogenetically (& perhaps emerged evolutionarily) from the process of imitating a quasi-continuous acoustic signal with a neuroanatomically segmented & somatotopically organized vocal machinery. Evidence cited for somatotopic organization includes the perceptual salience in the speech signal of information specifying place of articulation, as revealed both by sine wave speech & by the pattern of errors in children's early words. Adapted from the source document

  35. The Puzzle of Language Evolution

    Steels, Luc

    Kognitionswissenschaft, 2000, 8, 4, Jan, 143-150

    It is argued that linguistics must again concentrate on the evolutionary nature of language, so that language models will be more realistic with respect to natural human languages & will have a greater explanatory force. Multi-agent systems are proposed as a possible route to develop such evolutionary models, & an example is given of a concrete experiment in the origins & evolution of word-meaning based on a multi-agent approach. 5 Figures, 15 References. Adapted from the source document


    Calvin, William H; Bickerton, Derek

    298pp, Cambridge: Massachusetts Instit Technology Press, 2000

    Noam Chomsky's universal grammar implies an innate brain circuitry for syntax. This suggests a large evolutionary step up to human-level language abilities without the useful-in-themselves intermediate steps usually associated with Darwinian gradualism. The macromutations thus suggested are one example of the "deus ex machina" quality of most attempts to explain the origins of language. A proper "lingua ex machina" would be a language machine capable of nesting phrases & clauses inside one another, complete with evolutionary pedigree. This book consists of 15 Chpts that consider three paths in the development from ape behaviors to syntax: (1) carryover from reciprocal altruism's cognitive categories & (2) ballistic movements planning circuits, both of which are compatible with slow language improvement over a few million years, & (3) corticocortical coherence, a threshold which, once crossed, allowed structured thought & talk to become far more fluent & thus a capstone candidate for what triggered the flowering of art & technology seen late in hominid evolution, after brain size itself had stopped growing. Focus is on the transition from simple word association in short sentences (proto-language) to longer recursively structured sentences (requiring syntax), with emphasis on invention via sidesteps (Darwinian conversions of function), not straight-line gradual improvements. Glossary. Adapted from the source document

  37. Secret Language Use at Female Initiation: Bonding Gossiping Communities

    Power, Camilla

    THE EVOLUTIONARY EMERGENCE OF LANGUAGE: SOCIAL FUNCTION AND THE ORIGINS OF LINGUISTIC FORM, Knight, Chris, Studdert-Kennedy, Michael, & Hurford, James R. [Eds], England: CU Press, 2000, pp 81-98

    In light of R. I. M. Dunbar's proposals regarding the value of gossip for group bonding among early humans, ethnographic accounts of female initiation rituals in three Bantu-speaking societies (Venda, Bemba, & Kpe) are examined with focus on the integration of secret language with ritual as a solution to the problem of free-riding, ie, the need to exclude individuals whose gossip is unreliable. Coercive initiation of pubescent females is held to manifest tension between pregnant & nursing females & their younger competitors for male provisioning; the high personal costs of initiation function as a demonstration of personal commitment to the older group, to be rewarded later when the initiate becomes a nursing mother. As gossip requires a relationship of trust, the speech of the individual becomes an object of testing; initiates are secluded & taught special terms & formulas that must be recited on demand as a costly countermechanism to free-riding. 40 References. J. Hitchcock

  38. From Potential to Realization: An Episode in the Origin of Language

    Comrie, Bernard

    Linguistics, 2000, 38, 5(369), 989-1004

    What kind of input is necessary for a creature that has the linguistic potential of a human being actually to realize that potential? Various scenarios are investigated on the basis of the empirical evidence available, including feral children (who receive no input & do not develop language); & creoles, twin languages, & deaf sign languages (where it seems, clearly in the case of deaf sign languages, only on certain approaches in the case of creoles, that provision of a lexicon is sufficient for the development of a fully fledged language). It is concluded that provision of a lexicon - with as its initial stage the recognition that linguistic signs can be arbitrary - plays a surprisingly important role in the minimal requirements for linguistic development & that cognitive prerequisites must be supplemented by social ones. 23 References. Adapted from the source document

  39. How Protolanguage Became Language

    Bickerton, Derek

    THE EVOLUTIONARY EMERGENCE OF LANGUAGE: SOCIAL FUNCTION AND THE ORIGINS OF LINGUISTIC FORM, Knight, Chris, Studdert-Kennedy, Michael, & Hurford, James R. [Eds], England: CU Press, 2000, pp 264-284

    A new theory of the evolution of syntax posits the prior existence of a social calculus to implement reciprocal altruism among primates by tracking the behaviors of group members; such a calculus, antedating the pongid-hominid split, would require episodic memory & store in it abstract representations of events & participants. Basic clause & phrase structure resulted from the mapping of the thematic structure of the social calculus onto the utterances of a structureless protolanguage. The estimated two million years during which protolanguage coexisted with the social calculus before the appearance of syntax is accounted for by reviewing the neural requirements that basic syntax shares with other uniquely human abilities, including rhythmic drumming, tap dancing, & representational drawing: all depend on the long-term maintenance of coherent neural firing patterns without external stimulus or reinforcement, & human behaviors shared with other species do not have this requirement. Once the hominid brain could sustain coherent neural signals through a sufficient number of merge operations, the template of the social calculus was immediately accessible to linguistic processing. 51 References. J. Hitchcock

  40. Comprehension, Production and Conventionalisation in the Origins of Language

    Burling, Robbins

    THE EVOLUTIONARY EMERGENCE OF LANGUAGE: SOCIAL FUNCTION AND THE ORIGINS OF LINGUISTIC FORM, Knight, Chris, Studdert-Kennedy, Michael, & Hurford, James R. [Eds], England: CU Press, 2000, pp 27-39

    A novel perspective on the evolution of language is argued to follow naturally from two familiar observations regarding both human & animal communication: (1) comprehension is always more advanced than production, & (2) instrumental behavior is often interpretable in the absence of an intention to communicate. The ability of particular apes to comprehend a considerable amount of spoken language is held to be evidence of a degree of linguistic ability usually considered to be exclusively human. The question of what motivated the first speaker if his/her productions could not be understood by others is answered by adopting the view that communication begins with the interpretation of another's behavior as a sign; comprehension is favored by selective pressures, whereas the production of signals is often disadvantageous. The conventionalization of instrumental acts in humans & chimpanzees is reviewed in this context; a typology of communication forms distinguishes ontogenetically conventionalized gestures & noises from human & mammalian gesture-calls, which developed through phylogenetic ritualization, & from words, signs, & quotable gestures & noises, all of which develop by imitation. The origin of language is to be sought in improved mutual comprehension, which leads to exploitation by deliberately informative behavior. 1 Table, 12 References. J. Hitchcock

  41. The Distinction between Sentences and Noun Phrases: An Impediment to Language Evolution?

    Carstairs-McCarthy, Andrew

    THE EVOLUTIONARY EMERGENCE OF LANGUAGE: SOCIAL FUNCTION AND THE ORIGINS OF LINGUISTIC FORM, Knight, Chris, Studdert-Kennedy, Michael, & Hurford, James R. [Eds], England: CU Press, 2000, pp 248-263

    On the assumption that the pathways of evolution can be illuminated by accidental evolutionary residues, eg, nerve fibers covering the retina of the vertebrate eye & the configuration of mammalian sperm ducts, implications of an analogous residue in language are explored. The universal syntactic distinction between sentences & noun phrases (NPs), encoding a semantic distinction between asserting & referring respectively, is shown to be unnecessary in a comprehensible artificial variant of English & is argued to reflect the origin of syntax in the cooption of the neural mechanism that imposes syllable structure on speech; whereas sentences are parallel to syllables, NPs are parallel to syllabic margins. Early syntax, by this account, lacked recursion & embedding & was therefore more restricted than the cognitive capacity of hominids, a serious mismatch reflected in archaeological evidence for the stagnation of technological development during the long Homo erectus phase. It is suggested that recursivity may have emerged as a dependent effect of an eventual generalization of the awkward syllable-based syntax to sentence-internal elements. 26 References. J. Hitchcock

  42. Language and Hominid Politics

    Dessalles, Jean-Louis

    THE EVOLUTIONARY EMERGENCE OF LANGUAGE: SOCIAL FUNCTION AND THE ORIGINS OF LINGUISTIC FORM, Knight, Chris, Studdert-Kennedy, Michael, & Hurford, James R. [Eds], England: CU Press, 2000, pp 62-80

    As success in all human societies is dependent on the ability to form coalitions & acquire status, it is suggested that the origin of language may lie in group-on-group conflict between coalitions, favoring a diminution of in-group violence & manipulative signaling & an increase in individuals' contributions of relevant information to their group. The group rewards relevant information by conferring status on its provider; individuals therefore compete to have their information regarded as the most relevant & to discredit the information of other group members. Listeners, not speakers, have the responsibility to detect cheating & adjust social status rewards accordingly. Although speaking is not a form of reciprocal altruism in this view, the strategies of reciprocal altruism involved in coalitionary activity, particularly the conferral of status by willingness to form social bonds, are a precondition for speech. 8 Figures, 6 References. J. Hitchcock

  43. Introduction: The Emergence of Syntax

    Hurford, James R

    THE EVOLUTIONARY EMERGENCE OF LANGUAGE: SOCIAL FUNCTION AND THE ORIGINS OF LINGUISTIC FORM, Knight, Chris, Studdert-Kennedy, Michael, & Hurford, James R. [Eds], England: CU Press, 2000, pp 219-230

    An introduction to essays in PART III of this volume - THE EMERGENCE OF SYNTAX - provides analytic summaries of their content & compares the perspectives of selected authors with respect to eight overarching themes reflecting the recent tendency in language evolution studies to recognize that the biological evolution of the language capacity was entangled with nonbiological evolutionary mechanisms. A gap remains, however, between broad programmatic proposals regarding language evolution & the present state of detailed syntactic knowledge, the fragmentation of which into multiple competing theories is argued to necessitate a search for new explanatory principles beyond traditional theoretical boundaries. Structural parallels between levels of language & the character of semantics in presyntactic protolanguage are discussed in this framework. 1 Table, 9 References. J. Hitchcock

  44. Social Transmission Favours Linguistic Generalisation

    Hurford, James R

    THE EVOLUTIONARY EMERGENCE OF LANGUAGE: SOCIAL FUNCTION AND THE ORIGINS OF LINGUISTIC FORM, Knight, Chris, Studdert-Kennedy, Michael, & Hurford, James R. [Eds], England: CU Press, 2000, pp 324-352

    The role of social transmission in the evolution of syntactic language is investigated in four simulation experiments drawing on techniques of J. Batali (1998) & Simon Kirby (2000) to model communities of four adult speaker/inventors & one child hearer /learner with gradual population turnover, a meaning space of 4,000 possible meanings, & an initial languageless state. Despite random inconsistent invention in the first cycles, experiment 1 showed a gradual reduction of form-meaning correspondences until the entire community shared the same set, eliminating synonymy & generalizing syntactic rules. Experiment 2 manipulated the probability of particular meanings, which as expected persisted as idioms alongside general rules. In experiment 3, although the tendency to generalize was weakened, rote-learned sequences conformed to the ordering rules of the resulting community language, suggesting that linguists' economizing generalizations pertain to E-languages, not I-languages. Experiment 4 added a restructuring operation to reduce meaning representations into binary bracketed structures, producing a convergence on a single binary rule instead of separate rules for one-, two-, & three-place predicates. 6 Tables, 1 Figure, 16 References. J. Hitchcock

  45. The Evolution of Sex Differences in Language, Sexuality, and Visual-Spatial Skills

    Joseph, R

    Archives of Sexual Behavior, 2000, 29, 1, Feb, 35-66

    The evolutionary neurological & physical foundations for human sex differences in language, sexuality, & visual spatial skills are detailed, & primate & human studies are reviewed. Trends in the division of labor were established early in evolution & became amplified with the emergence of the "big brained" Homo erectus. A bigger brain necessitated a size increase in the birth canal & female pelvis. These & other physical changes, eg, the swelling of the breasts & buttocks, may have paralleled the evolution of full-time sexual receptivity, the establishment of the home base, & exaggerated sex differences in the division of labor (hunting vs gathering), which in turn promoted innate sex differences in visual spatial vs language skills. For example, female primates produce more social & emotional vocalizations & engage in more tool use & gathering activities, whereas males tend to hunt & kill. Similar labor divisions are evident over the course of human evolution. "Woman's work" such as child rearing, gathering, & domestic tool construction & manipulation contributed to the functional evolution of Broca's speech area & the angular gyrus, which injects temporal sequences & complex concepts into the stream of language & thought. These activities gave rise, therefore, to a female superiority in grammatical (temporal sequential) vocabulary-rich language. Hunting as a way of life does not require speech but requires excellent visual-spatial skills &, thus, contributed to a male visual-spatial superiority & sex difference in the brain. Over the course of evolution males acquired modern human speech through genetic inheritance & because they had mothers who taught them language. 5 Figures, 326 References. Adapted from the source document

  46. The Spandrels of the Linguistic Genotype

    Lightfoot, David

    THE EVOLUTIONARY EMERGENCE OF LANGUAGE: SOCIAL FUNCTION AND THE ORIGINS OF LINGUISTIC FORM, Knight, Chris, Studdert-Kennedy, Michael, & Hurford, James R. [Eds], England: CU Press, 2000, pp 231-247

    Characteristics of universal grammar are explained in the context of current debate over the exclusive vs nonexclusive role of natural selection in evolution; physical laws limiting evolutionary change are illustrated by scaling relations in plants & animals, & the possibility of nonadaptive changes as by-products of adaptive changes is introduced. One element of universal grammar is claimed to be dysfunctional, ie, nonadaptive: a general requirement that all traces head the complement of an adjacent word blocks useful wh-movement from the subject of finite clauses, motivating a variety of circumventing strategies in different languages - complementizer deletion, resumptive pronoun use, & complex subject movement. A review of the implementation of these strategies in a wide range of languages attests the human need to extract subjects for reasons of expressibility & shows that the fixed subject constraint is a nonadaptive by-product of another change. 28 References. J. Hitchcock

  47. Words, Memes and Language Evolution

    Worden, Robert P

    THE EVOLUTIONARY EMERGENCE OF LANGUAGE: SOCIAL FUNCTION AND THE ORIGINS OF LINGUISTIC FORM, Knight, Chris, Studdert-Kennedy, Michael, & Hurford, James R. [Eds], England: CU Press, 2000, pp 353-371

    The notion of memes, defined in the selfish-gene theory of R. Dawkins (1976) as units of cultural inheritance analogous to genes & subject to natural selection, is incorporated in a theory of language learning in which word memes evolve by a mechanism of precise word replication that propagates word information across generations. In a unification-based framework, word senses are represented in the brain as a tree-like feature structure comprising the phonology, syntax, & semantics of the word & are replicated by feature structure generalization from the unified derivation structures of utterances. The learning process of unification & generalization is analogous to DNA replication, & the evolution of word feature structures over generations is shaped by factors determining their fitness: useful meaning, productivity, economy, ease of learning, unambiguousness, & social identification. These selection pressures are shown to create prominent features of languages, including semantic role selection, the encoding of meanings in verbs of motion, the Greenberg-Hawkins universals, & the blend of regularity & irregularity found in all languages. 1 Table, 4 Figures, 20 References. Adapted from the source document

  48. Holistic Utterances in Protolanguage: The Link from Primates to Humans

    Wray, Alison

    THE EVOLUTIONARY EMERGENCE OF LANGUAGE: SOCIAL FUNCTION AND THE ORIGINS OF LINGUISTIC FORM, Knight, Chris, Studdert-Kennedy, Michael, & Hurford, James R. [Eds], England: CU Press, 2000, pp 285-302

    In light of the holistic character of nonhuman primate communication & the abundance & heavy communicative burden of holistic utterances in human interactions, it is hypothesized that holistic processing has continued uninterrupted through the evolutionary stages of primate communication, protolanguage, & full human language. The formulaic component of the latter, which meets selectional requirements of social communication by implementing the majority of perlocutionary speech acts in everyday life, exists side by side with the newly evolved analytic language system, which is seriously misaligned with communicative needs. The emergence of the grammatical faculty has little to do with social communication & is more plausibly understood as a way to organize thought & planning via referentiality, hierarchical structure, & concepts at the level of what would become words; the original function of the phonological loop is viewed in this context as an extra memory capacity facilitating complex thought. 4 Figures, 37 References. J. Hitchcock

  49. The Neurethology of Primate Vocal Communication: Substrates for the Evolution of Speech

    Ghazanfar, Asif A; Hauser, Marc D

    Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 1999, 3, 10(31), Oct, 377-384

    In this article, we review behavioral & neurobiological studies of the perception & uses of species-specific vocalizations by non-human primates. At the behavioral level, primate vocal perception shares many features with speech perception by humans. These features include a left-hemisphere bias toward conspecific vocalizations, the use of temporal features for identifying different calls, & the use of calls to refer to objects & events in the environment. The putative neural bases for some of these behaviors have been revealed by recent studies of the primate auditory & prefrontal cortices. These studies also suggest homologies with the human language circuitry. Thus, a synthesis of cognitive, ethological & neurobiological approaches to primate vocal behavior is likely to yield the richest understanding of the neural bases of speech perception, & might also shed light on the evolutionary precursors to language. 3 Figures, 66 References. Adapted from the source document


    Dunbar, Robin

    230pp, Cambridge, MA: Harvard U Press, 1996

    This book contains 10 Chpts that explore the role of social group interaction in the development of the human language ability. Human socialization is compared to the grooming habits of nonhuman primates in an effort to explain the emergence of language. Primate grooming serves to establish & maintain relational bonds within the group, but such behaviors are effective only with limited numbers of individuals. It is argued that early human language replaced grooming as a more efficient method of building social order & alliances, rather than developing primarily as a communicative tool in complex tasks, eg, hunting. The limitations of modern language in human group dynamics & information technologies are considered as well. 4 Figures, Bibliog. L. Lucht