Biology and Philosophy 32 (6):759-778 (2017)

Anton Killin
Australian National University
Recently theorists have developed competing accounts of the origins and nature of protolanguage and the subsequent evolution of language. Debate over these accounts is lively. Participants ask: Is music a direct precursor of language? Were the first languages gestural? Or is language continuous with primate vocalizations, such as the alarm calls of vervets? In this article I survey the leading hypotheses and lines of evidence, favouring a largely gestural conception of protolanguage. However, the “sticking point” of gestural accounts, to use Robbins Burling’s phrase, is the need to explain how language shifted to a largely vocal medium. So with a critical eye I consider Michael Corballis’s most recent expression of his ideas about this transition. Corballis’s view is an excellent foil to mine and I present it as such. Contrary to Corballis’s account, and developing Burling’s conjecture that musicality played some role, I argue that the foundations of an evolving musicality provided the means and medium for the shift from gestural to vocal dominance in language. In other words, I suggest that an independently evolving musicality prepared ancient hominins, morphologically and cognitively, for intentional articulate vocal production, enabling the evolution of speech.
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DOI 10.1007/s10539-017-9607-x
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References found in this work BETA

From Code to Speaker Meaning.Kim Sterelny - 2017 - Biology and Philosophy 32 (6):819-838.

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