The Origins and Evolution of Human Language
Meetings and contact information
Class meetings: 10:00-10:50, Herring Hall 125
Instructor contact: Office, Herring Hall 209; Tel. (348)-6225, email kemmer at rice.edu
Office hours: MWF 11:00am-11:50am and by appointment
As far as we can tell, only one species has a communicative system of
the complexity of human language, and that is humans. By comparing
full-blown human language with other systems, we can learn something
about how human language arose in prehistory. Recent advances in
primate cognition and social behavior, infant cognition and social
behavior, archeology, genetics, and other fields allow us to adduce various
sorts of evidence, of various degrees of directness, to make
hypotheses about the origin and development of human language. In
doing so, we can also learn more about human language itself and the
nature of the human species.
Some questions we will deal with are:
If time, we will also deal with the geographic spread of Homo sapiens
sapiens and the accompanying spread and divergence of human languages
throughout the world in paleolithic and post-paleolithic times. This section
will include the recent hypotheses based on mitochondrial DNA and other genetic
information derived from modern human populations.
If no time for this part of the course is available (since
this year some guest lectures have been added), suggestions for
readings on these topics will be given.
There are a few primary texts that we will read from
selectively. Selected articles and portions of the texts will be
placed on the new Course Management Program CANVAS for download, or you will be told how to otherwise
get access to them. Any of
the following texts can be obtained from Amazon.com as well.
A few other books from the Books, Websites and other Sources page
linked below are items that can be used for
research for the presentations and short paper.
Since I don't have copies of all of them,
students should get the actual readings from the library, online, Amazon, or
otherwise borrow them.
If you have a documented disability that will impact your work in
this class, please contact me to discuss your needs. Additionally, you
will need to register with the Disability Support Services Office in
the Ley Student Center.