Primate Vocalization, Gesture, and the Evolution of Human Language

  title={Primate Vocalization, Gesture, and the Evolution of Human Language},
  author={Michael A. Arbib and Katja Liebal and Simone Pika},
  journal={Current Anthropology},
  pages={1053 - 1076}
The performance of language is multimodal, not confined to speech. Review of monkey and ape communication demonstrates greater flexibility in the use of hands and body than for vocalization. Nonetheless, the gestural repertoire of any group of nonhuman primates is small compared with the vocabulary of any human language and thus, presumably, of the transitional form called protolanguage. We argue that it was the coupling of gestural communication with enhanced capacities for imitation that made… 

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.

Communicative Signaling, Lateralization and Brain Substrate in Nonhuman Primates: Toward a Gestural or a Multimodal Origin of Language?

Underlie the specific significance of communicative gestures and of the progressive control of the oro-facial system and the vocal tract in the course of the language evolution of humans and nonhuman primates.

Tonkean macaques communicate with their right hand

Reconsidering the Role of Manual Imitation in Language Evolution

It is argued that while gestural communication undoubtedly played a crucial role in language evolution, the grounds for thinking that manual imitation did are currently unconvincing.

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.

The evolution of speech: vision, rhythm, cooperation

Method and Evidence: Gesture and Iconicity in the Evolution of Language

It is argued that existing uses of gesture in hominid communities may have prohibited the emergence of symbol use, rather than ‘bootstrapped’ symbolic capacities as is usually assumed, and that the vocal channel offers other advantages in both learning and using language.

Flexibility in wild infant chimpanzee vocal behavior

The results suggest that the most common chimpanzee vocalization, the grunt is not affectively bound, and this would indicate that the evolution of this foundational vocal capability occurred before the split between the Homo and Pan lineages.

Multimodal communication and language origins: integrating gestures and vocalizations

Evidence demonstrates that there is no clear difference between primate gestures and vocalizations in the extent to which they show evidence for the presence of key language properties: intentionality, reference, iconicity and turn‐taking, and confirms that human language had multimodal origins.



Primate Communication and the Gestural Origin of Language

  • G. Hewes
  • Psychology
    Current Anthropology
  • 1992
Wallace, Tylor, Wundt, Johannesson, and others have proposed that human language had its basis in hand and arm gestures. The Gardners' work with the chimpanzee Washoe, Premack's study of the

Primate Communication and the Gestural Origin of Language [and Comments and Reply]

Wallace, Tylor, Wundt, Johannesson, and others have proposed that human language had its basis in hand and arm gestures. The Gardners' work with the chimpanzee Washoe, Premack's study of the

Gestural communication of apes

An overview of the work on the gestural communication of apes with the focus on their repertoire, learning mechanisms, and the flexibility of gesture use during interactions with conspecifics is provided.

Gestures of apes and pre-linguistic human children: Similar or different?

The majority of studies on animal communication provide evidence that gestural signalling plays an important role in the communication of non-human primates and resembles that of pre-linguistic and

When the hands speak

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

From manual gesture to speech: A gradual transition

Ape gestures and language evolution

It was found that homologous facial/vocal displays were used very similarly by both ape species, yet the same did not apply to gestures, and bonobos showed greater flexibility than chimpanzees and were the only species in which multimodal communication added to behavioral impact on the recipient.

From monkey-like action recognition to human language: An evolutionary framework for neurolinguistics

  • M. Arbib
  • Biology, Psychology
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • 2005
It is argued that the progression from protosign and protospeech to languages with full-blown syntax and compositional semantics was a historical phenomenon in the development of Homo sapiens, involving few if any further biological changes.

Primate social knowledge and the origins of language

Primate vocal communication is very different from human language. Differences are most pronounced in call production. Differences in production have been overemphasized, however, and distracted