The Origin and Evolution of Human Language
Prof. Suzanne Kemmer
Books, Websites, and other Sources
The readings posted here are tentative and will be announced in advance in each week. Fuller references are given in Books, Websites and Other Sources.
|Wk||Date||Topic||Readings and Assignments|
|1||Jan 10||Introduction. Human language and human evolution. Timeline of evolution of pre-human species through modern cultural developments.||Timeline of Events in Pre-human and Human Evolution|
|Jan 12||What is a language system? What is a human language? Contrasts with other communication systems. Kinds of animal communication. Preliminary to "Some design features of Language"||
|2||Jan 17||Design features; more specific look at human vs. animal comm. systems|| Hockett
1960; Tomasello excerpt
|Jan 19||More features of human communication. Structural aspects of language. Vervet monkey call system vs. human lg.||begin Tomasello 2002, chapter from Evolution of Language|
|3||Jan 24||The social-cognitive revolution in 9-12 month old human children.||Tomasello 2002, cont.|
|Jan 26||The social-cognitive revolution in 9-12 month old human children. What does this developmental leap tell us about the capacities underlying human language? Comparisons with animals. (Lexical symbols vs. grammar - wanted to cover but didn't get to it. Might be relevant to later presentations or other work you do. I will put up some notes about this article incorporating some thoughts about this topic.)||Tomasello 2002, cont.|
|4||Jan 31||Presentations 1-4.|
|Feb 2||Presentations 5-8.|
|5||Feb 7||Guest speaker: Sydney Lamb. Evolution of Language Part I. Did language development precede brain development in humans? Did language and brain development go hand in hand? (For this the term 'coevolution' is often used; but this properly refers to structures and associated functions - the general evolutionary feedback loop-- rather than two functions.) What exactly happened in the brain that relates to language? Topics relevant to the argument: Some physical/functional points of comparison between humans and close primate relatives: Vocal tract; hands, feet; gait. Behavioral comparisons.||Lieberman and McCarthy; Lamb powerpoint Part I.|
|Feb 9||Sydney Lamb. Evolution of language and its relation to evolution of the human brain, Part II. Finishing the argument for development of brain first, then various functions of language, with vocal speech probably developing last. The FoxP2 gene and misunderstanding of it as a, or the "language gene".||Lieberman and McCarthy; Lamb powerpont Part II.|
|6||Feb 14||Organizational; Groups for presentation 2 on hominid species. Questions, discussions on Lamb. Issues on cooking as an explanation of explosion of size of cortex.|
|Feb 16||Tools and Causality. Tool use in animals. What animals use tools? What are "tools"? Are these phenomena tool use: producing certain chemicals to ward off pests (see Crafty plants) nest-building (birds, squirrels, chimpanzees); apparent play behavior by (especially) young animals with objects (domestic cats and dogs; wild canids and felines?); using stones to break open hard sea shells (otters); snowboarding down roofs on plastic lids (crows); dropping hard food onto hard surfaces to break it open (gulls, crows); 'using traffic' to crack nuts (crows); using sponges to uncover prey on sea floor (dolphins); what else? Nowadays it is agreed that chimps, gorillas, and monkeys use tools in the wild, but this was not known or accepted until Jane Goodall's work began to be recognized (1980s; still rejected by many until 2000s).||Tomasello and Call (1997). Crow videos (see Owlspace Resources "Other interesting animal behavior"); dolphin links. Students, please supply more links and I will put them in the Resources. Primate timeline extracted by SK from information in Tomasello and Call (1997)|
|7||Feb 21||Points of comparison within primates: brain; cortical structures. Some aspects of primate cognition. Mirror system: monkey, human. Groups 1, 2 on Hominid species.||Tomasello and Call cont. Iacoboni.|
|Feb 23||Comparative primate brain cont. Summary of comparison of non-human primate cognition and human cognition. The evolutionary gulf our ancestors had to bridge. Iacoboni.|
|8||Feb 28||Spring Break, no class|
|Mar 1||Spring Break, no class
|9||Mar 6||Hominid species and hominid evolution. Family tree turns into "family bush". Monogenesis vs. polygenesis of human origins. Australopithecines. Groups 3, 4, 5||Donald Johanson interview. Hominids webpages on Sources. Overview reading, TBA.|
|Mar 8||Groups 6, 7 on hominid species. Innovations in morphology in various hominids. Implications for communicative behavior. More claims and controversies.||Keep reading Hominids pages. Links. Interim report on first topic due 5 p.m.|
|10||Mar 13||Evidential gaps in Hominid archeology. Overview of stone tools.||Read summaries by Kemmer: a) Dimensions of Hominid evolution; b) Habilis and Erectus. Study and compare timelines linked on Sources.|
|Mar 15||Summary so far of aspects of evolutionary development of humans. Fitting certain hominids into the Dimensions of Hominid evolution outline. Indeterminacies in paleoanthropology.||Web summaries and timelines, cont.|
|11||Mar 20||Fossil remains. Implications for communication. Timeline summarizing relation of events, fossils, date ranges.||Davidson 2002.|
|Mar 22||Spring recess|
|12||Mar 27||Archaic sapiens. Evidence of 'representation' (visual; other artifacts). The blocks of ochre. Signs of representation and cognitive pattern? Or accidental or purely functional patterning with no aesthetic/representational processing? Cognitive issues. Uniformitarian hypothesis of human cognition in modern sapiens.||Explore sapiens sites.|
|Mar 29||Uniformitarianism cont. Mark Turner hypotheses. The upper paleolithic. A flowering of technology and culture?||Websites cont.|
|13||Apr 3||Image Schemas; and Conceptual Blending.|
|Apr 5|| Presentations on group
topics selected by group. Area: Cognitive and Neural capacities
|14|| Apr 10 || Presentations on Cognitive and Neural
||Apr 12|| Presentations on cognitive and neural capacitie
||Apr 19 ||Some conclusions on Evolution of Human Language.
||All powerpoints for all presentations to be uploaded in final form.
||Topics that could make the basis of presentations.
||Deacon 2008. Corballis 2003 From Hand to Mouth.
||The symbolic link in humans. Background and
introduction to Deacon's views on language evolution. Computer-based symbolic systems
vs. true semiotic-based systems. Indexicality. Functional complexity
of the semiotic function of symbols. Cutting through the nativism
debate. Functional semiotic constraints as explanation for observed
properties of human language systems, rather than nativism.
||Claims and controversies 1: Corballis' theory of the gestural origin
of language. Language and handedness.
||Corballis (2003). Corballis
interview on handedness and brain asymmetry.
||McNeill results on the
relation of gesture and language; and how the latter bear on the
Corballis' theory. Remaining issues on gesture and language and
potential evolutionary connection. || McNeill In press
Genetic evidence for hypotheses of human diaspora. The spread of Homo Sapiens
Sapiens ||Sykes: The Seven Daughters of Eve, pp. 17-49, 50-85
||Cheddar Man speaks. The First Europeans; the Last of the Neanderthals; Hunters
and Farmers; We are Not Amused (a scientific controversy and