Homo sapiens sapiens is the only species that has a communicative system of the intricate complexity of human language. Language evolution poses many fascinating questions. Why did a communication systems that provides such tremendous evolutionary advantages evolve only once? Did language evolve suddenly or over a long period of time? Did language evolve from animal calls or from communicative gestures? Trying to find answers to these and many other questions is a massively interdisciplinary enterprise bringing together specialists from many fields. In this course we will examine recent theories of language origins and evolution and work on the physical evidence concerning the origins of language from a philosophical, linguistic, psychological, anthropological, and palaeontological perspective. By comparing human language with other systems, we can infer how human language might have arisen in prehistory. Recent advances in primate cognition and social behavior, infant cognition and social behavior, archeology, and other fields provide direct and indirect evidence for scientific hypotheses about the origin and development of human language. We will evaluate how this evidence has been used to support specific theories and discuss the philosophical implications of this work.
- Instructor: Christina Behme