The evolution of language: A comparative review [Book Review]
Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3):193-203 (2005)
AbstractFor many years the evolution of language has been seen as a disreputable topic, mired in fanciful “just so stories” about language origins. However, in the last decade a new synthesis of modern linguistics, cognitive neuroscience and neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory has begun to make important contributions to our understanding of the biology and evolution of language. I review some of this recent progress, focusing on the value of the comparative method, which uses data from animal species to draw inferences about language evolution. Discussing speech first, I show how data concerning a wide variety of species, from monkeys to birds, can increase our understanding of the anatomical and neural mechanisms underlying human spoken language, and how bird and whale song provide insights into the ultimate evolutionary function of language. I discuss the “descended larynx” of humans, a peculiar adaptation for speech that has received much attention in the past, which despite earlier claims is not uniquely human. Then I will turn to the neural mechanisms underlying spoken language, pointing out the difficulties animals apparently experience in perceiving hierarchical structure in sounds, and stressing the importance of vocal imitation in the evolution of a spoken language. Turning to ultimate function, I suggest that communication among kin (especially between parents and offspring) played a crucial but neglected role in driving language evolution. Finally, I briefly discuss phylogeny, discussing hypotheses that offer plausible routes to human language from a non-linguistic chimp-like ancestor. I conclude that comparative data from living animals will be key to developing a richer, more interdisciplinary understanding of our most distinctively human trait: language.
Similar books and articles
The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language (Reply to Fitch, Hauser, and Chomsky).Steven Pinker - 2005 - Cognition 97 (2):211-225.
Language Evolution Without Evolution.Derek Bickerton - 2003 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26 (6):669-670.
Imitation Systems, Monkey Vocalization, and the Human Language.Emmanuel Gilissen - 2005 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 28 (2):133-134.
Symbol Grounding and the Symbolic Theft Hypothesis.Angelo Cangelosi, Alberto Greco & Stevan Harnad - 2002 - In A. Cangelosi & D. Parisi (eds.), Simulating the Evolution of Language. Springer Verlag. pp. 191--210.
Echo Phonology: Signs of a Link Between Gesture and Speech.Bencie Woll & Jechil S. Sieratzki - 1998 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (4):531-532.
On the Distinctively Human: Two Perspectives on the Evolution of Language and Conscious Mind.Osmo Kivinen & Tero Piiroinen - 2012 - Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 42 (1):87-105.
The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language (Reply to Fitch, Hauser, and Chomsky).Ray Jackendoff - 2005 - Cognition 97 (2):211-225.
Added to PP
Historical graph of downloads
Citations of this work
The Biology and Evolution of Music: A Comparative Perspective.W. Tecumseh Fitch - 2006 - Cognition 100 (1):173-215.
Self Domestication and the Evolution of Language.James Thomas & Simon Kirby - 2018 - Biology and Philosophy 33 (1-2):9.
From Sharing Food to Sharing Information.Judith Burkart, Eloisa Guerreiro Martins, Fabia Miss & Yvonne Zürcher - 2018 - Interaction Studies. Social Behaviour and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systemsinteraction Studies / Social Behaviour and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systemsinteraction Studies 19 (1-2):136-150.
Vocal Parameters of Speech and Singing Covary and Are Related to Vocal Attractiveness, Body Measures, and Sociosexuality: A Cross-Cultural Study.Jaroslava Varella Valentova, Petr Tureček, Marco Antonio Corrêa Varella, Pavel Šebesta, Francisco Dyonisio C. Mendes, Kamila Janaina Pereira, Lydie Kubicová, Petra Stolařová & Jan Havlíček - 2019 - Frontiers in Psychology 10.
References found in this work
How Monkeys See the World: Inside the Mind of Another Species.Dorothy L. Cheney & Robert M. Seyfarth - 1990 - University of Chicago Press.
Machiavellian Intelligence: Social Expertise and the Evolution of Intellect in Monkeys, Apes, and Humans.Richard W. Byrne & Andrew Whiten (eds.) - 1988 - Oxford University Press.
The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language.Steven Pinker - 1994/2007 - Harper Perennial.