Towards an evolutionary biology of language through comparative neuroanatomy

Wendy K. Wilkins

in The Oxford Handbook of Language Evolution

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Towards an evolutionary biology of language through comparative neuroanatomy

More Like This

Show all results sharing these subjects:

  • Linguistics
  • Language Evolution



This article reveals the work carried out on evolutionary biology of language that can proceed in two ways such as through an examination of the fossil record and through comparative primate neuroanatomy. The structures in the peri-Sylvian region of the left hemisphere are necessary for language. These include Broca's area, the parietal-occipital-temporal junction or POT. The lack of a POT is indicated by the existence of a major sulcal division, the lunate sulcus, at the terminus of the Sylvian fissure. The existence of a Broca's area and a POT are considered indicative of a hominin anatomical configuration rather than a great ape configuration. The POT region in modern humans is essential to language and to basic conceptual structures. The anatomical mosaic parts essential to language have not been shown to be homologous to anatomical structures that support vocal communication in related ape species. The spatial structure concepts that are evidently necessarily expressed in some fashion or other in language involve motion and location and are typically represented functionally in terms of source, goal, theme, and location, and involve places and paths. Human cognition and language depend on neuroanatomical structures, which lie adjacent to, and are intimately connected to, portions of the posterior parietal cortex that are responsible for spatial cognition.

Keywords: neuroanatomy; evolution of language; Sylvian fissure; Broca's area; lunate sulcus; hominin anatomical configuration

Article.  3756 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Language Evolution

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »