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… 
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.
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
Primate Communication and Human Language: Continuities and Discontinuities
It is suggested that long before the authors' ancestors spoke in sentences, they had a language of thought in which they represented the world – and the meaning of call sequences – in terms of actors, actions, and those who are acted upon.
The Role of Anticipation in the Emergence of Language
We review some of the main theories about how language emerged. We suggest that including the study of the emergence of artificial languages, in simulation settings, allows us to ask a more general


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?
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.
The Evolution of Communication
The argument focuses on the design of natural communication systems language evolution and the concept of similarity, similarity and classification, units of analysis and their classification in communication potential fruits of Tinbergen's research design.
How Children Learn the Meaning of Words and How LSA Does It ( Too )
For long psycholinguistics has tried to answer the question “how children learn the meaning of words?” Paul Bloom answers the question in his book with the same title. He argues that the mind does
What young chimpanzees know about seeing.
  • D. Povinelli, T. Eddy
  • Psychology, Biology
    Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development
  • 1996
The findings provide little evidence that young chimpanzees understand seeing as a mental event and demonstrate that, even though young chimpanzee subjects spontaneously attend to and follow the visual gaze of others, they simultaneously appear oblivious to the attentional significance of that gaze.