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The Evolution of Language: Towards Gestural Hypotheses


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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This book was preceded by the excellent introductions to the science of language evolution authored by Sverker Johansson (2005), Tecumseh Fitch (2010) or James Hurford (2014). But we believe that our book has a distinct character and as such can play a role in popularising this area of knowledge. We set ourselves the task of presenting the evolution of language as a new field of study, outlining its conceptual background, the interdisciplinary nature of the research, and its developmental dynamics. At the same time, we flag those threads which are currently at the centre of discussions and disputes (e.g. modality), along with those which have been relegated to the periphery (e.g. speculative scenarios). We have paid particular attention to a problem that now appears to be fundamental in the language evolution research: the cooperative basis for linguistic communication. We have also taken care to present the basic conceptual tools in the field of evolutionary theory, combining this domain with a presentation of “evolutionary thinking”, broadly understood as a set of useful, universal evolutionarily grounded heuristics for interpreting human behaviour and culture.

Chapters that survey the field are set alongside others that are more concerned with providing a commentary on the various research trajectories in language evolution. Accordingly, the opening chapter contains a comprehensive and systematic reconstruction of the thought on the beginnings of language, while the chapter closing the monograph presents our suggestions for an approach to one of the central issues in the evolution of...

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