The Evolution of Language

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  • Edition: 1st
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2010-05-17
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
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Language, more than anything else, is what makes us human. It appears that no communication system of equivalent power exists elsewhere in the animal kingdom. Any normal human child will learn a language based on rather sparse data in the surrounding world, while even the brightest chimpanzee, exposed to the same environment, will not. Why not? How, and why, did language evolve in our species and not in others? Since Darwin's theory of evolution, questions about the origin of language have generated a rapidly-growing scientific literature, stretched across a number of disciplines, much of it directed at specialist audiences. The diversity of perspectives - from linguistics, anthropology, speech science, genetics, neuroscience and evolutionary biology - can be bewildering. Tecumseh Fitch cuts through this vast literature, bringing together its most important insights to explore one of the biggest unsolved puzzles of human history.

Table of Contents

List of figuresp. ix
Acknowledgmentsp. xi
Introductionp. 1
The Lay of the Land
Language from a biological perspectivep. 13
Evolution: consensus and controversyp. 35
Languagep. 73
Animal cognition and communicationp. 143
Meet the Ancestors
Meet the ancestorsp. 205
The LCA: our last common ancestor with chimpanzeesp. 234
Hominid paleontology and archaeologyp. 250
The Evolution of Speech
The evolution of the human vocal tractp. 297
The evolution of vocal control: the neural basis for spoken languagep. 338
Models of the evolution of speech and phonologyp. 364
Evaluating Phylogenetic Models of Language Evolution
Historical overview: Western theories of language origin before Darwinp. 389
Lexical protolanguagep. 401
Signs before speech: gestural protolanguage theoriesp. 433
Musical protolanguagep. 466
Conclusions and prospectsp. 508
Glossaryp. 513
Appendix: species namesp. 519
Referencesp. 521
Author indexp. 605
Subject indexp. 607
Species indexp. 611
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