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Darwin's Unfinished Symphony$
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Kevin N. Laland

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780691182810

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691182810.001.0001

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Why We Alone Have Language

Why We Alone Have Language

(p.175) Chapter 8 Why We Alone Have Language
Darwin's Unfinished Symphony

Kevin N. Laland

Princeton University Press

This chapter explores how and why language evolved by asking what caused our ancestors to take the first steps away from the communication systems that other animals, particularly other primates, possess. It follows seven criteria for determining the validity of competing language evolution theories—seven benchmarks with which to evaluate alternative explanations for the original adaptive advantage conferred by early forms of language. These criteria are as follows: the theory must account for the honesty of early language; the theory should account for the cooperativeness of early language; the theory should explain how early languages could have been adaptive from the outset; the concepts proposed by the theory should be grounded in reality; the theory should explain the generality of language; the theory should account for the uniqueness of human language; and finally, the theory should explain why communication needed to be learned. This compilation of criteria is important because when considered together, they comprise a tough standard against which almost all of the previously proposed accounts fail.

Keywords:   language, communication systems, language evolution, language evolution theories, early language, language generality

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