Talking About Tools: Did Early Pleistocene Hominins Have a Protolanguage?

Biological Theory 12 (4):211-221 (2017)

Ronald J. Planer
Australian National University
This article addresses the question of whether early Pleistocene hominins are plausibly viewed as having possessed a protolanguage, that is, a communication system exemplifying some but not all of the distinctive features of fully modern human language. I argue that the answer is “yes,” mounting evidence from the early Pleistocene “lithics niche.” More specifically, I first describe a cognitive platform that I think would have been sufficient, given appropriate socio-ecological conditions, for the creation and retention of a protolanguage. Then, using archaeological evidence pertaining to hominin lithic behavior from the early Pleistocene, I attempt to make plausible the idea that each of these cognitive abilities were in fact in place by this point in hominin evolutionary history and also that the requisite socio-ecological conditions were satisfied.
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DOI 10.1007/s13752-017-0279-1
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