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Human Lifeworlds

The Cognitive Semiotics of Cultural Evolution

Edited By David Dunér and Göran Sonesson

This book, which presents a cognitive-semiotic theory of cultural evolution, including that taking place in historical time, analyses various cognitive-semiotic artefacts and abilities. It claims that what makes human beings human is fundamentally the semiotic and cultural skills by means of which they endow their Lifeworld with meaning. The properties that have made human beings special among animals living in the terrestrial biosphere do not derive entirely from their biological-genetic evolution, but also stem from their interaction with the environment, in its culturally interpreted form, the Lifeworld. This, in turn, becomes possible thanks to the human ability to learn from other thinking beings, and to transfer experiences, knowledge, meaning, and perspectives to new generations.
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Gerd Carling - Chapter Three : Language: The Role of Culture and Environment in Proto-Vocabularies


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Gerd Carling

Chapter Three

Language: The Role of Culture and Environment in Proto-Vocabularies

This chapter concerns vocabularies and how they relate to the evolutionary schema suggested by Merlin Donald. Typically, research on language evolution and vocabulary tends to focus on basic parts of vocabulary, i.e. lexemes for universal or near-universal lexical items, such as body parts, kinship terms, and lexemes for basic motions and sense perceptions. Language evolution and vocabulary unusually discusses the topic of lexemes for fundamental items of the environment, such as tools, which supposedly play an important role in language evolution, but which are too diverse in languages to be related or compared by means of language-universal basic vocabulary word lists, such as the Swadesh and Leipzig-Jakarta word lists (as explained in Section 3.3). Here, I argue that there is a demand for a more dynamic view on proto-vocabularies, including the analysis of cultural niche and environment, in order to trace the evolution of early language.

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