The Transition to Language

Paperback | March 1, 2002

EditorAlison Wray

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The evolutionary emergence of each facet of human language can be viewed as a 'transition'. This book explores how different transitions took place, their preconditions, and their consequences. Among the questions it addresses are: what physiological and psychological differences between usand other animals lie at the heart of our superior capacity for language? Was the pre-linguistic period of humankind characterized by words without syntax, syntax without meaning, gesture without speech, or all, or none, of these? Once a community is ready and able to develop language, what internaland external factors trigger its emergence? How are we to interpret the archaeological evidence of early tool-making abilities, relative to the presence, or absence, of language? In what social circumstances could language have avoided being immediately harnessed for deception, so that it became toodangerous and unreliable to be of value? Was the universal form of language determined by pre-existing psychological capabilities, or by natural constraints in communication? Has language finished evolving? If not, how different were linguistic structures used by our early ancestors from those thatwe use today? This investigation into one of the enduring mysteries of humankind brings together original contributions from linguists, archaeologists, anthropologists, psychologists, biologists, primatologists, and researchers in artificial intelligence. They offer the reader up-to-the-minute debates in thefield of language evolution.

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The evolutionary emergence of each facet of human language can be viewed as a 'transition'. This book explores how different transitions took place, their preconditions, and their consequences. Among the questions it addresses are: what physiological and psychological differences between usand other animals lie at the heart of our supe...

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...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:422 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.83 inPublished:March 1, 2002Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199250669

ISBN - 13:9780199250660

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Table of Contents

1. Alison Wray: Introduction: Conceptualizing Transition in an Evolving FieldPart I: Making Ready for Language: Necessary, But Not Sufficient2. W. Tecumseh Fitch: Comparative Vocal Production and the Evolution of Speech: Reinterpreting the Descent of the Larynx3. Kazuo Okanoya: Sexual Display as a Syntactic Vehicle: The Evolution of Syntax in Birdsong and Human Language through Sexual Selection4. H. S. Terrace: Serial Expertise and the Evolution of LanguagePart II: Internal Triggers to Transition: Genes, Processing, Culture, Gesture, and Technology5. T. J. Crow: Protocadherin XY: A Candidate Gene for Cerebral Asymmetry and Language6. Alison Wray: Dual Processing in Protolanguage: Performance Without Competence7. Chris Knight: Language and Revolutionary Consciousness8. Michael C. Corballis: Did Language Evolve from Manual Gestures?9. Iain Davidson: The 'Finished Artefact Fallacy': Acheulean Handaxes and Language OriginsPart III: External Triggers to Transition: Environment, Population, and Social Context10. Derek Bickerton: Foraging Versus Social Intelligence in the Evolution of Protolanguage11. Bradley Tonkes and Janet Wiles: Methodological Issues in Simulating the Emergence of Language12. L. Steels, F. Kaplan, A. McIntyre, and J. Van Looveren: Crucial Factors in the Origins of Word-Meaning13. Sonia Ragir: Constraints on Communities with Indigenous Sign Languages: Clues to the Dynamics of Language GenesisPart IV: The Onward Journey: Determining the Shape of Language14. Robbins Burling: The Slow Growth of Language in Children15. James R. Hurford: The Roles of Expression and Representation in Language Evolution16. Morten H. Christiansen and Michelle R. Ellefson: Linguistic Adaptation Without Linguistic Constraints: The Role of Sequential Learning in Language Evolution17. Frederick J. Newmeyer: Uniformitarian Assumptions and Language Evolution Research18. Bernd Heine and Tania Kuteva: On the Evolution of Grammatical Forms