Do we talk to be relevant?

Edouard Machery
University of Pittsburgh
In Why we Talk, cognitive scientist Jean-Louis Dessalles presents an original, in-depth account of the nature and evolution of human language. Written in a clear and engaging manner, Why we Talk is an impressive achievement. Dessalles reviews and contributes to most controversies about human language. He compares human language to other systems of communication found in the animal world, arguing for the originality of the former; he clearly shows that language is a biological trait and that we should study its evolution as we do for other biological traits; he analyzes the nature of grammar; he distinguishes two distinct semantic contributions made by assertions; he proposes several distinct stages in the evolution of language; and, finally, he proposes a new hypothesis about the selective pressures explaining the evolution of our linguistic faculty. In what follows, I will focus exclusively on this new hypothesis: I will argue that it poorly accounts for several important aspects of linguistic communication. Here is how I will proceed. In Section 1, I will review Dessalles’s hypothesis about the evolution of language. In Section 2, I will empirically evaluate this hypothesis
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