Language Evolution

Edited by Morten H. Christiansen Simon Kirby

Oxford University Press 2003

The Language Mosaic and its Evolution

James R. Hurford

Pre-adaptations for language involved the following capacities or dispositions:

1. Pre-phonetic capacity to perform speech sounds or manual gestures.

2. Pre-syntactic capacity to organize longer sequences of sounds or gestures.

3. Pre-semantic capacities:

a. to form basic concepts;

b. to construct more complex concepts (e.g. propositions);

c. to carry out mental calculations over complex concepts.

4. Pre-pragmatic capacities:

a. to infer what mental calculations others can carry out;

b. to act cooperatively;

c. to attend to the same external situations as others;

d. to accept symbolic action as a surrogate for real action.

5. An elementary symbolic capacity to link sounds or gestures arbitrarily with basic concepts, such that perception of the action activates the concept, and attention to the concept may initiate the sound or gesture.

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