Pragmatic Apparatus – The Social Evolution of Language, and the Language of Social Evolution

Cited by Lee Sonogan

Language Evolution – Centre of Excellence for the Dynamics of Language

Abstract by Thomas C. Scott-Phillips

Recent years have witnessed an increased interest in the evolution of the human capacity for language. Such a project is necessarily interdisciplinary. However, that interdisciplinarity brings with it a risk: terms with a technical meaning in their own field are used wrongly or too loosely by those from other backgrounds. Unfortunately, this risk has been realized in the case of language evolution, where many of the terms of social evolution theory (reciprocal altruism, honest signaling, etc.) are incorrectly used in a way that suggests that certain key fundamentals have been misunderstood. In particular the distinction between proximate and ultimate explanations is often lost, with the result that several claims made by those interested in language evolution are epistemically incoherent. However, the correct application of social evolution theory provides simple, clear explanations of why language most likely evolved and how the signals used in language — words — remain cheap yet arbitrary.

Publication: Evolutionary Psychology (Peer-Reviewed Journal)

Pub Date: October 1, 2007 Doi:

Keywords: language, evolution, social evolution, language evolution, communication, honesty (Plenty more sections and references in this research article)

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