Article

The evolution of language

Simon Kirby

in Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology

Published in print April 2007 | ISBN: 9780198568308
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198568308.013.0046

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

The evolution of language

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This article discusses the significance of the emergence of language. One of Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry's observations is that, despite their diversity, these transitions have some features in common. In particular, many of the transitions give rise to a new mechanism for the transmission of information. Language, they argue, provides just such a novel mechanism — essentially enabling a system of cultural transmission with unlimited heredity. It is clearly true that language enables the transmission and storage of very complex cultural information. Arguably, it is this aspect of the biological heritage that makes the impact of humans so great, and so unusual. The article argues that human language achieves this by briefly surveying the structural features of language, and the characteristics of language as a biological endowment.

Keywords: language; Maynard Smith; Eörs Szathmáry; transmission; information; humans

Article.  7770 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Cognitive Psychology ; Cognitive Neuroscience

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