Gestural Origins of Language as an Evolutionary Explanation for the Digital and Analogic Properties of Human Communication Open Access

Smith, Randolph Westley (2012)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/sj139198j?locale=en
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Abstract

This thesis explores several lines of evidence supporting the hypothesis that the evolution of manual object manipulation laid the foundations for the development of syntactic grammar. Once biological evolution had yielded a human brain and body capable of supporting language, the capacity for hierarchically organized action and thought involved in complex behaviors like stone tool construction was co-opted to support the feature of compositionality in language. These two abilities - hierarchical action and compositional syntax - were mutually selective in the cultural evolution of the modern mind and co-evolved in an expanding spiral from an initially analogic form of communication into a fully digital and productive linguistic system. Dexterous hands originally adapted for object manipulation came to serve the dual functions of analogic gesture and a digital system of initially manual arbitrary signs, although the truly compositional and productive qualities of language ultimately became restricted to the vocal modality. This process can be corroborated by the evolution of lithic technologies and other behavioral correlates in the archaeological record.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
1. Introduction …………………………………………………………………………………… 1
2. Embodiment …………………………………………………………………………………... 6
3. Hands and Language ………………………………………………………………………… 17
4. The Parallel Structure of Language and Complex Action …………………………………... 29
5. Action and Language in Human Ontogeny …………………………………………………. 50
6. The Respective Roles of Biological and Cultural Processes in Language Evolution ……….. 68
7. Plausible Scenarios for the Cultural Evolution of Language ………………………………... 78
8. Archaeological Lines of Evidence for the Study of Language Evolution …………………... 96
9. Conclusion …………………………………………………………………………………. 113
Works Cited …………………………………………………………………………………... 118

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