Language requires investigation within a broad framework, which can only be achieved if the elements studied belong to all realms of verbal (and to some extent non-verbal) communication. Grammar is merely the systematized aspect of language: by drawing on data from oral communication in a number of languages – with its phonological, pragmatic and gestural aspects – and taking into account palaeontology, anthropology, psychology and evolutionary biology, it is possible to shed new light on the phenomenon of language, meant and designed for communication, and not merely grammar.
This book explores why language operates the way it does, why it is acquired the way it is, how it evolved in the first place, and why it is that some phenomena in language are universal while others are not. The author also considers whether apparently separate defining properties of our species are in fact narrowly correlated aspects of one and the same biological reality, which converges in language. Finally, the book explores the possibility that language is both the reason and the effect of the intrinsic responsibility that we feel for our fellow beings, akin to that which in different contexts is called love for our neighbour, or altruism.