29 August 2014
on course website
Evolution of Language
Human language has been the result of some recent evolutionary developments. It is universally shared across the species and includes properties that are biologically isolated (structural dependency, discrete infinity, self-embedding, displaced reference, etc.). Language shows properties of complex design raising questions like: What’s the nature of language? How does it develop in the organism? When and why did it originate in the species? How did it evolve the way it did? Human language is complex and results from interacting simpler systems, which each may have had a long evolutionary history of its own. Nevertheless the way these modules are integrated into a working system has been novel as well as recent. Relevant questions that will be addressed include: Which systems are uniquely human (species-specific) and uniquely linguistic (domain-specific)? Did core properties of human language evolve gradually and adaptively from gestural or vocal systems of animal communication? Or was their evolution saltational and exaptive? What was the primary function of language? Communication or an efficient way of organizing cognitive systems? These questions will be raised within a broad multi-disciplinary framework of comparative biology, paleoanthropology, evolutionary genetics, the cognitive neurosciences and linguistics.
Dr. Maaike Schoorlemmer
General (academic) public interested in language and evolution of language.
Introducing the field of language evolution
Certificate of Attendance
EUR 350: Course + course materials + housing
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