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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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Comments

Sandeep Gautam

For an interpretation of Rizzolatti et al study on Mirror neurons and how that may shed light on language origin, one may find my speculative blog posting informative and interesting. Would love comments on the same. The link is http://the-mouse-trap.blogspot.com/2006/09/mirror-neurons-in-news-again.html

TLTB

I was with you until the last sentiment. Looking at communication in other species is essential to finding out how human speech evolved since that's the only way to find out what is special about human speech. Any part of language that has analogues in our evolutionary lineage (quantitative variation aside) can't be part of 'what evolved.'

Incidentally, signed languages also have phonology in addition to syntax. There's a whole book on it here: http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=T5KTFGJdWbwC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&sig=AsKbI0iP9emK4Xcipkum9YhHpG0&dq=%22Brentari%22+%22A+Prosodic+Model+of+Sign+Language+Phonology%22+&prev=http://scholar.google.com/scholar%3Fq%3Dauthor:%2522Brentari%2522%2Bintitle:%2522A%2BProsodic%2BModel%2Bof%2BSign%2BLanguage%2BPhonology%2522%2B%26hl%3Den%26lr%3D

David Rose

Another problem with the gestural speech origin theory is its circuitousness - primate communication is originally vocal, then becomes gestural, then vocal again?? This is one of many problems created unnecessarily by a narrowly representational view of the functions of language.

Alternatives are opened up by a metafunctional view of language evolution, in which vocalisations and facial expressions may have had primarily interpersonal functions - expressing feelings and evaluations, and brachiomanual gestures may have had demonstrative functions - indicating things and places in the context, that can be simultaneously evaluated with vocalisations and facial expressions. Later evolution of articulated syllables in human speech then enables wordings that can represent things and activities, independent of the context of speaking. Modern speech achieves all these functions simultaneously. More discussion in...
Rose, D. 2006. A systemic functional model of language evolution. In Cambridge Archaeological Journal. 16:1 73–96

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