Cognitive prerequisites for the evolution of indirect speech

Frederick L. Coolidge and Thomas Wynn

in The Oxford Handbook of Language Evolution

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

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 Cognitive prerequisites for the evolution of indirect speech

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This article proposes the important prerequisites for indirect speech that includes at least four major cognitive factors, adequate phonological storage capacity, recursion, a full theory of mind, and executive functions. The phonological store subsystem is considered to play a critical role in language production and comprehension. Adults who have greater phonological storage capacity have also been found to score higher on verbal tests of intelligence and higher on measures of verbal fluency and they also do better on retroactive and proactive interference tasks. The phonological storage capacity represents a short-term memory ensemble that can be phylogenetically tracked to earlier homologues in hominin evolution and to current primate brain systems. The recursion is highly dependent upon the phonological storage capacity. The theory of mind refers to the ability to infer the thoughts, emotions, and intentions of others. The theory of mind also consists of four independent skills that include detection of the intentions of others, detection of eye-direction, shared attention, and the final component called the theory of mind module. The final component, whose onset in humans is thought to develop by the age of four, contains a complex set of social-cognitive rules, and combined with the other three components, creates the full-fledged, adult-like theory of mind. The specific executive function might be involved in the theory of mind.

Keywords: indirect speech; cognitive factors; recursion; full theory of mind; phonological storage capacity; hominin evolution

Article.  2871 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Language Evolution ; Cognitive Linguistics

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