Christine Kenneally
The First Word

The search for the origins of language
Viking 2007


8 Part 1: Language Evolution: What is language?

Psametichus, Frederick II, Rousseau,Herder, Darwin,
Chomsky (syntax- language aquisition device LAD) , Savage-Rumbaugh (Kanzi), Pinker, Lieberman

83/91 If you have human language – you have something to talk about
92
One fundamental idea shared by many researchers is that in order to evolve language you will first have to have something to say - as opposed to, for example, going about your life, developing language out of the blue, and then finding you have a lot to talk about. The search for the origin of language thus includes a search to uncover what ultimately was so worth relating that our ancestors began to ratchet up their communication skills in order to do so. In trying to work this problem out, it helps to know what kind of thought goes on in their heads of nonlinguistic creatures. For a long time, we have assumed that not much does.

112 If you have human language - you have words
In the 1980s to researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Robert Seyfarth and Dorothy Cheney, published some attentiongrabbing data about the communication of African vervet monkeys. The researchers confirmed in 1967 discovery that the monkeys made specific, wordlike warning calls in response to particular predators.
113
There was great excitement at these findings, which suggested that we had finally found evidence of an animal word that worked the same way a human word does. The last common ancestor of vervets and humans lived around 30 million years ago. Was it possible that all you needed to achieve the complexity of human language was a proliferation of words, some syntactic rules to make them all work together, and 30 million years? And did this mean that words preceded humans?

123 If you have human language – you have gestures
124 Gestures play a large role in primate communication, Mike Tomasello explained, and as is the case with humans, these gestures are learned, flexible, and under voluntary control. Most primates, humans included, gesture communicatively with their right hands, suggesting that the dominance of one side of the brain for vocal and gestural communication could be as old as 30 million years.

127 Human children learn to point at a very young age. Tomasello and his colleagues have videotaped many instances of children spontaneously pointing in a helpful manner. Tomasello first started to consider how much this kind of shared, co-operative and attention mattered. The answer, he believes, is that humans are particularly co-operative in the way they communicate. Reciprocation is fundamental to the interactions of our species. Offering is not instinctive for humans, but is taught by parents to children, who learn it very easily. And crucially, we offer not only food and other objects but information and experiences as well. Children want you to look at what they are looking at and do emote in response. In many theories of evolution, human all tourism is treated as an anomaly. But Tomasello thinks it is an evolutionary strategy that has served as incredibly well.

Boe: altruism – reciprocation – sharing – food sharing (australopithecines) - Lucy – mood sharing – group thinking – communication – Peter Fuchs Psyche

134 Develpmental psychologists now talk about the cross-modality of language, meaning that language is expressed in various ways. Instead of the image of a brain issuing language to a mouth, from which it emerges as speech, think, rather, of language emerging in the child as an expression of its entire body, articulating both limbs and mouth at the same time.

137 Complicated dependencies and interactions demonstrate that speech and gesture are part of the same system. Moreover, this system, made up of the two semi-independent subsystems of speech and gesture, is also closely connected to the systems of thought. Perhaps we should designate another word entirely for intentional communication that includes gesture and speech. Whatever it should be, researchers have demonstrated that this communication is fundamentally embodied.

154 If you have language you have structure
Although many components of language have some kind of analogue in animal communication, our close relatives typically lack highly structured signals.
Human language involves two types of structures. In the first, elements from a finite set of meaningless sounds are combined into meaningful words and parts of words, known as morphemes. Linguists call this phonology.
In the second type of structure, words and morphemes are combined into phrases. This is what linguists call syntax. In 1960 the linguist Charles Hockett said that the relationship between the two types of combinatory rules was one of the major design features of human language; he called it duality of patterning. (syntactocentrism - Chomsky; Jackendoff/Pinker/Deacon).

Kenneally175: The Human Brain
187 Evidence of the ancient neurological connections between language and gesture were announced in Nature in 2001, When scientists found that a crucial part of the brain that has been linked with language in humans, Brodman’s area 44, which is part of Brocca’s area, exists in chimpanzees and gorillas as well. What was striking about this discovery was not merely the existence of the area in other primates but the similarity of its structure to that of humans.

Kenneally 200: Genes
Despite the initial controversy connected with examining the mental life of nonhuman animals, once this research began it didn't take scholars long to discover that thinking is a widely spread characteristic of many forms of life. In addition, in many animals there is some lexical ability, a capacity of a simple, meaningful structure, elements of culture, and the ability to imitate and learn. In animals closely related to us, the rudimentary beginnings of vocal control are evident. Although language evolution is a relatively new field, it has brought together this research from many disciplines in a completely new way.

Kenneally 205:
Sahelanthropus tschadensis 6 400 000
Orrorin tugensis 6 000 000
Australopithecus anamensis 3.6mio – 2.9mio Lucy 3,1mio
Homo habilis 2.5mio – 1.8mio
Homo rudolfensis
Homo ergaster 1.8mio – 1.5mio
Homo heidelbergensis
Homo neanderthalensis 500 000
Homo sapiens 200 000

Kenneally 226: computer modeling of the evolution of language.
Until the 1990s changes within and between languages could be tracked only by using the comparative method of linguistic reconstruction. But that technique has limitations. No single language from which all the world’s dialects are known to have descended has been reconstructed. The comparative method can am after traces of language from as early as six thousand years ago, but not much farther back than that. (historical linguistics, language families, Nostratic)

Computer modeling starts from the opposite end of the language chain. Instead of beginning with contemporary language and reconstructing past versions from it, Kirby creates populations of digital individuals called agents. He hands them some small amount of meaning, maybe a few rules, and then steps back and watches what they do with it.

Linguistics
Evolutionary Linguistics

Kenneally - update 1
Kenneally - update 2

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