Constraints and preadaptations in the earliest stages of language evolution

  title={Constraints and preadaptations in the earliest stages of language evolution},
  author={Dorothy L. Cheney and Robert M. Seyfarth},
Abstract If we accept the view that language first evolved from the conceptual structure of our pre-linguistic ancestors, several questions arise, including: What kind of structure? Concepts about what? Here we review research on the vocal communication and cognition of nonhuman primates, focusing on results that may be relevant to the earliest stages of language evolution. From these data we conclude, first, that nonhuman primates’ inability to represent the mental states of others makes their… 

The Evolution of Language: A Comparative Review

It is concluded that comparative data from living animals will be key to developing a richer, more interdisciplinary understanding of the authors' most distinctively human trait: language.

0 The evolution of language : a comparative review

It is concluded that comparative data from living animals will be key to developing a richer, more interdisciplinary understanding of the authors' most distinctively human trait: language.

The gradual evolution of language

Language is commonly held to be unique to humans, and to have emerged suddenly in a single “great leap forward” within the past 100,000 years. The view is profoundly anti-Darwinian, and I propose

A Complex-Adaptive-Systems Approach to the Evolution of Language and the Brain

It will be argued that this has in turn led to the evolution of language structure via cultural mechanisms (many of which remain opaque and hidden from the authors' conscious awareness) and this has itself contributed to a richer conceptual world.

A Saltationist Approach for the Evolution of Human Cognition and Language

It is argued that hominins evolved through major evolutionary leaps, which may have numbered only two or three significant mutation ``events", and further evidence from the fossil and archaeological record supports a ``sudden" emergence of human cognition and language.

Evidence of an evolutionary precursor to human language affixation in a non-human primate

This work investigates whether cotton-top tamarin monkeys (Saguinus oedipus) can spontaneously acquire an affixation rule that shares important properties with the authors' inflectional morphology, and shows that tamarins discriminate between bisyllabic items that start with a specific ‘prefix’ syllable and those that end with the same syllable as a ‘suffix’.


It is suggested that by treating the language faculty as a complex trait with predefined functional interfaces, it is possible to delineate the evolutionary forces that have led to the emergence of natural language.

Evolution of Language. Continuity and Discontinuity through Models and Empirical Data

  • A. Falzone
  • Biology
    Theoria et Historia Scientiarum
  • 2019
A naturalistic approach is proposed, based on Evo-Devo perspective, which considers biological constraints as the necessary “mechanical trigger” upon which language function could have evolved and allows us to both avoid functional leap in language evolution and at the same time, guarantee species-specificity of language.

Mirror neurons and the evolution of language

What is the human language faculty?: Two views

In addition to providing an account of the empirical facts of language, a theory that aspires to account for language as a biologically based human faculty should seek a graceful integration of



Language and species

  • D. McNeill
  • Linguistics
    International Journal of Primatology
  • 2006
Bickerton produces his first surprising insight: language is not continuous with animal communication systems, and this is where the evolutionary roots of language should be sought.

The faculty of language: what's special about it?

The evolution of syntactic communication

A model for the population dynamics of language evolution is presented, the basic reproductive ratio of words and the maximum size of a lexicon are defined and the number of required signals exceeds a threshold value is calculated.

Towards an evolutionary theory of language

Language capacities of nonhuman animals

This paper reviews the language analogue studies with great apes and cetaceans, examining the utility of the different methods and reviewing the animals' accomplishments, and concluding that chimpanzees and bonobos do not threaten human uniqueness with respect to speech and language.

Natural language and natural selection

There is every reason to believe that a specialization for grammar evolved by a conventional neo-Darwinian process, as well as other arguments and data.

Conceptual precursors to language

This work investigated the sensitivity of 5-month-old infants in an English-speaking environment to a conceptual distinction that is marked in Korean but not English; that is, the distinction between ‘tight’ and ‘loose’ fit of one object to another.

Fitness and the selective adaptation of language

The novel contribution of this paper is the suggestion that languages evolve historically to be optimal communicative systems, and that the innately specified human language learning mechanisms have evolved in order to learn these systems more efficiently.

[Language and thought].

  • D. Laplane
  • Psychology, Philosophy
    La Revue du praticien
  • 1991
Dealing with the question of right hemisphere performance in patients with a brain split by callosotomy demonstrates, better than anything else, that each position taken on this question is underlain by philosophical presuppositions.

Uniquely human. The evolution of speech, thought and selfless behavior

  • D. Falk
  • Psychology, Biology
    International Journal of Primatology
  • 2006
Lieberman attempts to integrate information about comparative neurology, neuroanatomy, linguistics, child development, and the hominid fossil record, in an effort to identify features that are uniquely human, but cannot recommend this book because it provides misinformation about primate (including human) neuroan atomy, brain evolution, andThe text is well written, and I enjoyed the discussions about neural networks, language acquisition in children.