Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language

Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language

by Robin Dunbar, R. I. Dunbar
     
 

Apes and monkeys, humanity's closest kin, differ from other animals in the intensity of their social relationships. All their grooming is not so much about hygiene as it is about cementing bonds, making friends, and influencing fellow primates. But for early humans, grooming as a way to social success posed a problem: given their large social groups of 150 or so, our… See more details below

Overview

Apes and monkeys, humanity's closest kin, differ from other animals in the intensity of their social relationships. All their grooming is not so much about hygiene as it is about cementing bonds, making friends, and influencing fellow primates. But for early humans, grooming as a way to social success posed a problem: given their large social groups of 150 or so, our earliest ancestors would have had to spend almost half their time grooming one another -- an impossible burden. What Dunbar suggests -- and his research, whether in the realm of primatology or in that of gossip, confirms - is that humans developed language to serve the same purpose, but far more efficiently. It seems there is nothing idle about chatter, which holds together a diverse, dynamic group -- whether of hunter-gatherers, soldiers, or workmates. Anthropologists have long assumed that language developed in relationships among males during activities such as hunting. Dunbar's original and extremely interesting studies suggest otherwise: that language in fact evolved in response to our need to keep up to date with friends and family. We needed conversation to stay in touch, and we still need it in ways that will not be satisfied by teleconferencing, e-mail, or any other communication technology. As Dunbar shows, the impersonal world of cyberspace will not fulfill our primordial need for face-to-face contact.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674363342
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
03/10/1997
Pages:
242
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 8.52(h) x 0.92(d)

Table of Contents

1. Talking Heads

2. Into The Social Whirl

3. The Importance Of Being Earnest

4. Of Brains and Groups and Evolution

5. The Ghost in the Machine

6. Up Through the Mists of Time

7. First Words

8. Babel's Legacy

9. The Little Rituals of Life

10. The Scars of Evolution

Bibliography

Index

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