Introduction: The evolution of language

Maggie Tallerman and Kathleen R. Gibson

in The Oxford Handbook of Language Evolution

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199541119
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Introduction: The evolution of language

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As the title suggests, this work chronicles the evolution of language with special reference to animals. Most organisms communicate with conspecifics, whether intentionally or not, and such communication encompasses all conceivable mechanisms. Vocal and other sound-based signals, such as clicking wings or legs, are common in animals. Visual signals are also widespread, including those associated with humans and other primates: manual and facial signals, and bodily postures. The volume is divided into five parts. Part I, about insights from comparative animal behavior, examines animal communication systems and cognitive capacities of potential relevance to the evolution of language and speech. Part II, which details the biology of language evolution including anatomy, genetics, and neurology, offers various views of the physical components of a language faculty. Part III is about the prehistory of language, and in particular askes: When and why did language evolve? The text presents current interpretations of the selective events that may have led to the evolution of language. Part IV, is on launching language and looks especially at the development of a linguistic species, and it presents articles dealing with central properties to be accounted for in language evolution, and issues surrounding the forces that shaped the language faculty. Finally, the articles in Part V look at language change, creation, and transmission in modern humans, and this part of the book examines a number of putative “windows” on language evolution; for instance, modern events involving language emergence or change, for which there exists a reasonably concrete evidence, might shed light on the evolution of language itself.

Keywords: visual signals; chemical signals; vocal communication; syllables; human phonological systems

Article.  16396 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Language Evolution

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