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The Evolution of Language: Towards Gestural Hypotheses

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Przemysław Żywiczyński and Sławomir Wacewicz

This book discusses the scope and development of the science of language evolution – a newly emergent field that investigates the origin of language. The book is addressed to audiences who are not professionally involved in science and presents the problems of language origins together with introductory information on such topics as the theory of evolution, elements of linguistic theory, the neural infrastructure of language or the signalling theory.

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Structure of the book

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The first two chapters provide an introduction to our study. “The Beginnings of Language and Language Origins” report ideas on the genesis of language as it was cultivated in religion and philosophy, and which predate scientific inquiry into the evolution of language. The second chapter “Evolution, Evolutionism, Evolutionary Thinking” explains the notions and terms that are indispensable to understanding the later chapters. We then devote two chapters to the evolution of language itself. In Chapter 3, entitled “Evolution of Language: A Departure from Glottogenic Scenarios”, we discuss the historical and scientific background from which the science of language evolution and its research programme emerged; in the next chapter, “Preadaptations for Language”, we focus on reviewing the anatomical and cognitive dispositions which made the emergence of language possible. We devote the fifth chapter to the most important of these dispositions – cooperation. The concluding chapter of the book, “The Problem of Modality Transition in the Gestural Primacy Hypothesis”, focuses on a very specific issue which concerns one of the hypotheses of language emergence – the Gestural Primacy Hypothesis – and shows how arguments in language evolution are constructed and verified.

To make reading easier, we have compiled a glossary of the most important terms used in the text, and the main part of the monograph is supplemented with secondary texts, which constitute an extended illustration of the issues under discussion.

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