The Genesis of Grammar: A Reconstruction

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This book reconstructs what the earliest grammars might have been and shows how they could have led to the languages of modern humankind.

Like other biological phenomena, language cannot be fully understood without reference to its evolution, whether proven or hypothesized," wrote Talmy Givón in 2002. As the languages spoken 8,000 years ago were typologically much the same as they are today and as no direct evidence exists for languages before then, evolutionary linguists are at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts in biology. Bernd Heine and Tania Kuteva seek to overcome this obstacle by combining grammaticalization theory, one of the main methods of historical linguistics, with work in animal communication and human evolution. The questions they address include: do the modern languages derive from one ancestral language or from more than one? What was the structure of language like when it first evolved? And how did the properties associated with modern human languages arise, in particular syntax and the recursive use of language structures? The authors proceed on the assumption that if language evolution is the result of language change then the reconstruction of the former can be explored by deploying the processes involved in the latter. Their measured arguments and crystal-clear exposition will appeal to all those interested in the evolution of language, from advanced undergraduates to linguists, cognitive scientists, human biologists, and archaeologists.

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Preface     xi
List of abbreviations     xiii
Introduction     1
Questions and approaches     1
Previous work     4
Assumptions     14
The present approach     20
On uniformitarianism     28
Grammaticalization     32
Methodology     33
The parameters     33
Extension     35
Desemanticization     39
Decategorialization     40
Erosion     42
Discussion     45
Problems     46
The present volume     53
An outline of grammatical evolution     57
Introduction     57
Layers     58
Nouns and verbs     59
The first layer: nouns     60
The second layer: verbs     71
The third layer: adjectives and adverbs     82
The fourth layer: demonstratives, adpositions, aspects, and negation     87
The fifth layer     93
The final stages     98
Treating events like objects     100
Evidence from signed languages     108
A scenario of evolution     110
Conclusions     114
Some cognitive abilities of animals     121
Introduction     121
What linguistic abilities do animals have?     125
Communicative intentions     126
Concepts     128
"Lexicon"     135
Functional items     138
Compositionality     143
Argument structure     144
Linear arrangement     146
Coordination     148
Taxonomic concepts     150
Discussion     159
Problems     160
Language-like abilities in animals     162
Grammaticalization in animals?     163
Conclusion     164
On pidgins and other restricted linguistic systems     166
Introduction     167
Kenya Pidgin Swahili (KPS)     169
The rise of new functional categories     175
Discussion     184
Grammaticalization in other pidgins     187
A pidgin window on early language?     193
Other restricted systems     198
An elementary linguistic system?     205
Conclusion     208
Clause subordination     210
Introduction      211
Expansion     216
Integration     224
Relative clauses     224
The demonstrative channel     225
The interrogative channel     229
Complement clauses     229
Introduction     230
The noun channel     230
The verb channel     236
The demonstrative channel     240
The interrogative channel     242
Adverbial clauses     244
Introduction     244
The noun channel     245
The verb channel     248
The demonstrative channel     250
The adverb channel     250
From complementizer or relativizer to adverbial clause subordinator     251
Discussion     254
Conclusions     260
On the rise of recursion     262
What is recursion?     262
A definition     264
Manifestations     266
Simple vs. productive recursion     268
Embedding, iteration, and succession     270
Treatment of recursion in linguistic description     271
Are there languages without recursion?     272
Discussion     273
Animal cognition     276
The noun phrase     279
Attributive possession     280
Modifying compounding     283
Adjectival modification     286
Conclusion     287
Clause subordination     287
Case studies     288
The rise of a relative clause construction     288
The rise of complement and adverbial clauses     291
Loss of recursion     293
Conclusions     294
Early language     298
Grammatical evolution     298
Layers     298
From non-language to language     311
Lexicon before syntax     313
Word order     315
Functions of early language     318
Cognition or communication?     318
Motivations underlying grammaticalization     323
Discussion     329
Who were the creators of early language?     331
Did language arise abruptly?     338
Grammaticalization-a human faculty?     342
Looking for answers     345
Conclusions     354
References     357
Index     401
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