The Origins of Grammar: Language in the Light of Evolution II

Hardcover | October 22, 2011

byJames R. Hurford

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This is the second of the two closely linked but self-contained volumes that comprise James Hurford's acclaimed exploration of the biological evolution of language. In the first book he looked at the evolutionary origins of meaning, ending as our distant ancestors were about to step over thebrink to modern language. He now considers how that step might have been taken and the consequences it undoubtedly had. The capacity for language lets human beings formulate and express an unlimited range of propositions about real or fictitious worlds. It allows them to communicate these propositions, often overlaid with layers of nuance and irony, to other humans who can then interpret and respond to them. Theseprocesses take place at breakneck speed. Using a language means learning a vast number of arbitrary connections between forms and meanings and rules on how to manipulate them, both of which a normal human child can do in its first few years of life. James Hurford looks at how this miracle cameabout.The book is divided into three parts. In the first the author surveys the syntactic structures evident in the communicative behaviour of animals, such as birds and whales, and discusses how vocabularies of learned symbols could have evolved and the effects this had on human thought. In the second heconsiders how far the evolution of grammar depended on biological or cultural factors. In the third and final part he describes the probable route by which the human language faculty and languages evolved from simple beginnings to their present complex state.

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This is the second of the two closely linked but self-contained volumes that comprise James Hurford's acclaimed exploration of the biological evolution of language. In the first book he looked at the evolutionary origins of meaning, ending as our distant ancestors were about to step over thebrink to modern language. He now considers ho...

James R. Hurford is Emeritus Professor of General Linguistics, University of Edinburgh. He is co-editor, with Kathleen Gibson, of OUP's Studies in Language Evolution, co-founder, with Simon Kirby, of the Language Evolution and Computation Research Unit at the University of Edinburgh, and co-founder, with Chris Knight, of the EVOLANG se...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:808 pages, 9.69 × 6.73 × 0.98 inPublished:October 22, 2011Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199207879

ISBN - 13:9780199207879

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Table of Contents

Part I: Pre-GrammarIntroduction to Part I: Twin Evolutionary patterns - Animal Song and Human Symbols1. Animal Syntax? Implications for Language as Behaviour2. First Shared LexiconPart II: What EvolvedIntroduction to Part II: Some Linguistics - How to Study Syntax and What Evolved3. Syntax in the Light of Evolution4. What Evolved: Language Learning Capacity5. What Evolved: LanguagesPart III: What HappenedIntroduction to Part III: What Happened - The Evolution of Syntax6. The Pre-existing Platform7. Gene-Language Coevolution8. One Word, Two Words9. GrammaticalizationSendoffReferencesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"l...a unique, interdisciplinary story of the development of language as we know it today... Hurford is undoubtedly comfortable with his subject matter. He weaves science and theory together expertly." -- lScience and Spirit