Precursors to Language

Topoi 37 (2):297-305 (2018)
Abstract
One view of language is that it emerged in a single step in Homo sapiens, and depended on a radical transformation of human thought, involving symbolic representations and computational rules for combining them. I argue instead that language should be viewed as a communication system for the sharing of thoughts, and that thought processes themselves evolved well before the capacity to share them. One property often considered unique to language is generativity—the capacity to generate a potentially infinite variety of sentences. I suggest that generativity is derived from the understanding of space and the capacity to recall or construct spatiotemporal scenarios, and probably goes far back in the evolution of animals that move in spatial habitats. Another property essential to language is theory of mind, the ability to understand what others are thinking, which probably emerged from animal empathy and became more complex in hominin evolution. Language evolved for the sharing of experiences, whether remembered or constructed, perhaps initially through pantomime but gradually conventionalized into standardized forms, including speech. These developments probably took place gradually during the Pleistocene, rather than as a sudden event in the evolution of H. sapiens.
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DOI 10.1007/s11245-016-9418-8
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References found in this work BETA

Does the Chimpanzee Have a Theory of Mind?David Premack & G. Woodruff - 1978 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 4 (4):515-629.
Natural Language and Natural Selection.Steven Pinker & Paul Bloom - 1990 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13 (4):707-27.
Does the Chimpanzee Have a Theory of Mind? 30 Years Later.Josep Call & Michael Tomasello - 2008 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12 (5):187-192.
Pragmatics, Modularity and Mind-Reading.Dan Sperber & Deirdre Wilson - 2002 - Mind and Language 17 (1-2):3–23.

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Citations of this work BETA

Pantomime and Imitation in Great Apes.Anne E. Russon - 2018 - Interaction Studiesinteraction Studies. Social Behaviour and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systems 19 (1-2):200-215.

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