The Transition to Language / Edition 1

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Linguists, biological anthropologists, and cognitive scientists come together in this book to explore the origins and early evolution of phonology, syntax, and semantics. They consider the nature of pre- and proto-linguistic communication, the internal and external triggers that led to its transformation into language, and whether and how language may be considered to have evolved after its inception. Evidence is drawn from many domains, including computer simulations of language emergence, the songs of finches, problem-solving abilities in monkeys, sign language, and the structure of languages today.

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Editorial Reviews

Anthropology, artificial intelligence, biology, genetics, linguistics, and psychology are among the disciplines represented by the contributors. Their 18 papers were selected from the large number of presentations at the April 2000 Third International Conference on the Evolution of Language, held in Paris. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199250660
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/28/2002
  • Series: Studies in the Evolution of Language
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 424
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Alison Wray gained her BA and D.Phil. degrees from the University of York. She has worked in departments of music, linguistics, and communication, and her research focuses on three major areas: historical pronunciation for early music, formulaic language, and language evolution. She has published papers and chapters on all three areas, and her books include: The Focusing Hypothesis (1992), Projects in Linguistics (1998, with Trott and Bloomer) and Formulaic Language and the Lexicon (2002).

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements
List of Figures
List of Tables
1 Introduction: Conceptualizing Transition in an Evolving Field 1
2 Comparative Vocal Production and the Evolution of Speech: Reinterpreting the Descent of the Larynx 21
3 Sexual Display as a Syntactical Vehicle: The Evolution of Syntax in Birdsong and Human Language through Sexual Selection 46
4 Serial Expertise and the Evolution of Language 64
5 ProtocadherinXY: A Candidate Gene for Cerebral Asymmetry and Language 93
6 Dual Processing in Protolanguage: Performance without Competence 113
7 Language and Revolutionary Consciousness 138
8 Did Language Evolve from Manual Gestures? 161
9 The Finished Artefact Fallacy: Acheulen Hand-axes and Language Origins 180
10 Foraging versus Social Intelligence in the Evolution of Protolanguage 207
11 Methodological Issues in Simulating the Emergence of Language 226
12 Crucial Factors in the Origins of Word-Meaning 252
13 Constraints on Communities with Indigenous Sign Languages: Clues to the Dynamics of Language Genesis 272
14 The Slow Growth of Language in Children 297
15 The Roles of Expression and Representation in Language Evolution 311
16 Linguistic Adaptation without Linguistic Constraints: The Role of Sequential Learning in Language Evolution 335
17 Uniformitarian Assumptions and Language Evolution Research 359
18 On the Evolution of Grammatical Forms 376
List of Contributors 399
Index 407
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