Routes to Child Language: Evolutionary and Developmental Precursors

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This book provides a detailed comparison of nonhuman primates and human infants with regard to key abilities that provide the foundation for language. It makes the case for phylogenetic continuity across species and ontogenetic continuity from infancy to childhood. Examined here are behaviors fundamental to language acquisition, such as vocalizations, mapping of meaning onto sound, use of gestures to communicate and to symbolize, tool use, object concept, and memory. The author provides evidence linking these abilities with language acquisition. Similarities and differences across species in these precursors are analyzed and how these may have influenced the evolution of language. Hypotheses about the origins of language are described.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Routes to Child Language: Evolutionary and Developmental Precursors is a stunning achievement which surely represents a new paradigm in language acquisition studies. Demonstrating a remarkable breadth and depth of scope, Joanna Blake weaves a unique tapestry from research of nonhuman primate communication, spoken language development, gesture, symbolic play, object concept, tool use, and the study of memory. As we continue to explore the perennial questions of how language began and how children develop language, it will be richly multidisciplinary studies such as Blake's that will contribute the most to our understanding of the complex achievement that is human language." Sherman Wilcox, University of New Mexico
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521033978
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 296
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface     x
Prelinguistic Vocalizations     1
Phylogenetic Origins of Human Infant Vocalizations     2
Differences between the Nonhuman Primate and Human Vocal Tracts     6
Ontogeny of Vocalizations in Human Infants over the First Year     13
Development of Vocalization in Human Infants during the Transition to Language     20
Phonetic Preferences     20
Features of Babbling     30
Prelinguistic Vocalizations and First Words     32
Prelinguistic Vocalizations and Later Language     34
Environmental Influences on Babbling     35
Conclusions     40
Sound-Meaning Correspondences     42
The Functional Meaning of Nonhuman Primate Calls     43
Spontaneous Calls of the Great Apes     43
Playback Experiments     48
Phonetically Consistent Forms in Prelinguistic Infants     51
Review of Observational Studies     52
Prosodic Aspects of Sound-Meaning Correspondences     56
Our Research on Sound-Meaning Correspondences     57
Conclusions     76
Communicative Gestures     78
What Is a Gesture?     78
Phylogenetic Origins of Communicative Gestures     82
Ontogeny of Gestures in Human Infants before 9 Months     92
Gestural Development from 9 Months: Order of Onset     95
Onset of Coordination of Gesture with Vocalization and Gaze     97
Change in the Gestural Repertoire from 9 to 15 Months and in Coordination with Vocalization and Gaze     102
Interrelationships among Gestures     105
Environmental Influences on the Gestural Repertoire     106
Relation of Gestures to Early Vocabulary and Later Language Acquisition     107
Conclusions     109
Symbolic Gestures and Symbolic Play     111
Theoretical Background     112
Symbolic Gestures in Nonhuman Primates     114
Symbolic Gestures in Human Infants     120
Our Observations of Symbolic Gestures     123
Symbolic Play     126
Our Research on Symbolic Play     134
Conclusions     139
Tool Use and Object Concept     140
Tool Use in Wild Apes     144
Tool Use in Captive and Ex-captive Apes and Monkeys     148
Circular Reactions     153
Conclusions     154
Object Concept in Apes and Monkeys     155
Conclusions     158
Early Findings in Favor of a Relationship between Tool Use and Communication in Human Infants     158
Methodological Problems in Means-Ends and Object Permanence Tasks     160
Results Relating Object Permanence Tasks to More Specific Aspects of Language Acquisition     162
The Specificity Hypothesis     163
Our Research Relating Piagetian Tasks to Communication     165
Object Constructions     166
Conclusions     169
Representation in Human Infants     171
Evidence from Preferential-Looking Paradigms     171
Evidence from Delayed-Imitation Paradigms     176
Evidence from Reaching Paradigms     180
Theories about the Development of Representation     180
Conclusions     183
Memory in Nonhuman Primates and Young Children     186
Memory in Monkeys and Apes     186
Spatial Memory     187
Sequential Memory     190
Delayed Imitation     193
Memory and Language Acquisition in Children     196
Our Research on Memory and Language     202
Conclusions     212
Origins of Language     213
Brain-Body Ratio and Brain Structure     213
Gestures     215
Mimetic to Mythic Culture      218
Information Donation     219
Symbolic Reference     221
The "Hopeful Monster" Theory     223
Conclusions     226
Recapitulation     228
References     233
Index     261
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