Pragmatic Apparatus – Human Self-Domestication and the Evolution of Pragmatics

Cited by Lee Sonogan

PDF] Pragmatics and the aims of language evolution | Semantic Scholar

Abstract by Antonio Benítez-Burraco, Francesco Ferretti, Ljiljana Progovac

As proposed for the emergence of modern languages, we argue that modern uses of languages (pragmatics) also evolved gradually in our species under the effects of human self-domestication, with three key aspects involved in a complex feedback loop: (a) a reduction in reactive aggression, (b) the sophistication of language structure (with emerging grammars initially facilitating the transition from physical aggression to verbal aggression); and (c) the potentiation of pragmatic principles governing conversation, including, but not limited to, turn-taking and inferential abilities. Our core hypothesis is that the reduction in reactive aggression, one of the key factors in self-domestication processes, enabled us to fully exploit our cognitive and interactional potential as applied to linguistic exchanges, and ultimately to evolve a specific form of communication governed by persuasive reciprocity—a trait of human conversation characterized by both competition and cooperation. In turn, both early crude forms of language, well suited for verbal aggression/insult, and later more sophisticated forms of language, well suited for persuasive reciprocity, significantly contributed to the resolution and reduction of (physical) aggression, thus having a return effect on the self-domestication processes. Supporting evidence for our proposal, as well as grounds for further testing, comes mainly from the consideration of cognitive disorders, which typically simultaneously present abnormal features of self-domestication (including aggressive behavior) and problems with pragmatics and social functioning. While various approaches to language evolution typically reduce it to a single factor, our approach considers language evolution as a multifactorial process, with each player acting upon the other, engaging in an intense mutually reinforcing feedback loop. Moreover, we see language evolution as a gradual process, continuous with the pre-linguistic cognitive abilities, which were engaged in a positive feedback loop with linguistic innovations, and where gene-culture co-evolution and cultural niche construction were the main driving forces.

Publication: Conitive Science – A Multidisciplinary Journal (Peer-Reviewed Journal)

Pub Date: 25 June, 2021 Doi:

Keywords: human, self-domestication, evolution of pragmatics, lingustics (Plenty more sections and references in this research article)

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