The Evolution of Language

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Overview

Language, more than anything else, is what makes us human. It appears that no communication system of equivalent power exists elsewhere in the animal kingdom. Any normal human child will learn a language based on rather sparse data in the surrounding world, while even the brightest chimpanzee, exposed to the same environment, will not. Why not? How, and why, did language evolve in our species and not in others? Since Darwin's theory of evolution, questions about the origin of language have generated a rapidly-growing scientific literature, stretched across a number of disciplines, much of it directed at specialist audiences. The diversity of perspectives - from linguistics, anthropology, speech science, genetics, neuroscience and evolutionary biology - can be bewildering. Tecumseh Fitch cuts through this vast literature, bringing together its most important insights to explore one of the biggest unsolved puzzles of human history.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Reconstructing the evolution of language is a daunting task but Tecumseh Fitch brings it off with style. An impressive synthesis.” --Robert Seyfarth, Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania

“The evolution of language has been described as the hardest problem in science, fraught with conflict, entrenched views, and misunderstandings between the multifarious disciplines involved. Fitch guides us through this tangled and often treacherous domain with clarity, equanimity, and encyclopedic reach. No other book so completely, fairly, and eloquently presents contemporary notions as to how language evolved.” --Michael Corballis, University of Auckland

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521677363
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 4/30/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 622
  • Sales rank: 749,882
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.70 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

W. Tecumseh Fitch is a Reader in Psychology at the University of St Andrews. He studies the evolution of cognition and communication in animals and man, focusing on the evolution of speech, music and language. He is interested in all aspects of vocal communication in terrestrial vertebrates, particularly vertebrate vocal production in relation to the evolution of speech and music in our own species.
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Table of Contents

List of figures

Introduction 1

Sect. 1 The Lay of the Land

1 Language from a biological perspective 13

2 Evolution: consensus and controversy 35

3 Language 73

4 Animal cognition and communication 143

Sect. 2 Meet the Ancestors

5 Meet the ancestors 205

6 The LCA: our last common ancestor with chimpanzees 234

7 Hominid paleontology and archaeology 250

Sect. 3 The Evolution of Speech

8 The evolution of the human vocal tract 297

9 The evolution of vocal control: the neural basis for spoken language 338

10 Models of the evolution of speech and phonology 364

Sect. 4 Evaluating Phylogenetic Models of Language Evolution

11 Historical overview: Western theories of language origin before Darwin 389

12 Lexical protolanguage 401

13 Signs before speech: gestural protolanguage theories 433

14 Musical protolanguage 466

15 Conclusions and prospects 508

Glossary 513

Appendix Species names 519

References 521

Author index 605

Subject index 607

Species index 611

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