Humana Mente 7 (27) (2014)

I argue that an evolutionary adaptation for bodily mimesis, the volitional use of the body as a representational devise, is the “small difference” that gave rise to unique and yet pre-linguistic features of humanity such as imitation, pedagogy, intentional communication and the possibility of a cumulative, representational culture. Furthermore, it is this that made the evolution of language possible. In support for the thesis that speech evolved atop bodily mimesis and a transitional multimodal protolanguage, I review evidence for the extensive presence of sound-symbolism in modern languages, for its psychological reality in adults, and for its contribution to language acquisition in children. On a meta-level, the argument is that dividing human cognitive-semiotic evolution into a sequence of stages is crucial for resolving classical dichotomies concerning human nature and language, which are both natural and cultural, both continuous with and discontinuous from those of animals.
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The Descent of Man.Charles Darwin - 1874 - Prometheus Books.

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