The evolution of language: Truth and lies

Philosophy 75 (3):401-421 (2000)
There is both theoretical and experimental reason to suppose that no-one could ever have learned to speak without an environment of language-users. How then did the first language-users learn? Animal communication systems provide no help, since human languages aren't constituted as a natural system of signs, and are essentially recursive and syntactic. Such languages aren't demanded by evolution, since most creatures, even intelligent creatures, manage very well without them. I propose that representations, and even public representations like sculptures, precede full languages, which were devised by the first human children as secret tongues to create fantasy realms inaccessible to their proto-human parents. Language, in brief, is not required for truth-telling or for the convenience of hunters. It is a peculiar modification of public representation, which permits us to construct new public worlds.
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DOI 10.1017/S0031819100000474
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