From mouth to hand: Gesture, speech, and the evolution of right-handedness

  title={From mouth to hand: Gesture, speech, and the evolution of right-handedness},
  author={Michael C. Corballis},
  journal={Behavioral and Brain Sciences},
  pages={199 - 208}
  • M. Corballis
  • Published 1 April 2003
  • Biology, Psychology
  • Behavioral and Brain Sciences
The strong predominance of right-handedness appears to be a uniquely human characteristic, whereas the left-cerebral dominance for vocalization occurs in many species, including frogs, birds, and mammals. Right-handedness may have arisen because of an association between manual gestures and vocalization in the evolution of language. I argue that language evolved from manual gestures, gradually incorporating vocal elements. The transition may be traced through changes in the function of Broca's… 
The Evolution of Language
  • M. Corballis
  • Psychology, Biology
    Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences
  • 2009
Language is adapted to allow us to share episodic structures, whether past, planned, or fictional, and so increase survival fitness.
Language as gesture.
Moving from hand to mouth: echo phonology and the origins of language
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  • Linguistics
    Front. Psychol.
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Echo phonology provides naturalistic examples of a possible mechanism accounting for part of the evolution of language, with evidence both of the transfer of manual actions to oral ones and the conversion of units of an iconic manual communication system into a largely arbitrary vocal communication system.
Primate laterality and the biology and evolution of human handedness: a review and synthesis
It is concluded that the robust, species‐wide lateralization that exists in humans is unusual, and perhaps unique among primates, and several possible evolutionary explanations for this strong asymmetry are discussed.
The gestural origins of language.
  • M. Corballis
  • Psychology
    Wiley interdisciplinary reviews. Cognitive science
  • 2010
The idea that language evolved from manual gestures rather than primate calls dates back at least to the 18th century, and was revived in modern form by the anthropologist, Gordon W. Hewes, in 1973.
Gestures, Vocalizations, and Memory in Language Origins
  • F. Aboitiz
  • Biology, Psychology
    Front. Evol. Neurosci.
  • 2012
The recruitment of the dorsal component for vocalization behavior in the human lineage, together with a direct cortical control of the subcortical vocalizing system, are proposed to represent a fundamental innovation in human evolution, generating an inflection point that permitted the explosion of vocal language and human communication.
Lateralization of communicative signals in nonhuman primates and the hypothesis of the gestural origin of language
It is argued that recent findings concerning neuroanatomical asymmetries in the chimpanzee brain and the existence of both mirror neurons and lateralized use of hands and vocalizations in communication necessitate a reconsideration of the phylogenic emergence of the cerebral and behavioral prerequisites for human speech.
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The postural origins theory suggests that the evolutionary precursor of human handedness first emerged in the prosimians, the earliest primates, and lay the foundation for further divisions of function between the hemispheres for controlling performance in manual tasks.
The origins of non-human primates' manual gestures
  • K. Liebal, J. Call
  • Psychology, Biology
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2012
Recent evidence concerning the differential laterality of manual actions and gestures in apes in apes is focused on in the framework of a functional asymmetry of the brain for both hand use and language.
On the gestural origins of language: what baboons’ gestures and brain have told us after 15 years of research
It is not excluded that features of gestural communication shared between humans, great apes and baboons, may have played a critical role in the phylogenetic roots of language and dated back, not to the Hominidae evolution, but rather to their much older catarrhine common ancestor 25–40 million years ago.


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    British journal of psychology
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Neuro-anatomical similarities between human and other vertebrate brains are considered, and data concerning physical asymmetries reviewed, and it seems possible that asymmetry of cerebral function are widespread in vertebrates.
Language in Hand: Why Sign Came Before Speech
William C. Stokoe offers here in his final book his formula for the development of language in humans: gesture-to-language-to-speech. He refutes the recently entrenched principles that humans have a
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What is the relation between gestures and speech? In terms of symbolic forms, of course, the spontaneous and unwitting gestures we make while talking differ sharply from spoken language itself.
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Overall, significantly more chimpanzees, especially females and adults, gestured with their right than with their left hand, suggesting that referential, intentional communicative behaviors, in the form of gestures, are lateralized to the left hemisphere in chimpanzees.
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The past fifteen years have seen a resurgence of interest in ideas of embodiment, the claim that bodily experiences play an integral role in human cognition (e.g., Clark, 1997; Johnson, 1987;
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A significant increase in the presence of sympathetic mouth movements was observed in behaviors along a continuum of precision of manipulation from precision grip to gross motor manipulation without prehension.
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The sounds of human speech make human language a rapid medium of communication through a process of speech “encoding.” The presence of sounds like the vowels [a], [i], and [u] makes this process
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Analysis of infants' developing control of vocal behavior in relation to manual activity performed under differing conditions of audibility suggests that the left cerebral hemisphere may be disproportionately involved in the production of repetitive vocal-motor activity as occurs in babbling.
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Why, in all cultures in which hearing is possible, has language become the province of speech (the oral modality) and not of gesture (the manual modality)? This question is particularly baffling