The Emergence of Protolanguage

Holophrasis vs compositionality

Michael A. Arbib | University of Southern California
Derek Bickerton | University of Southern California
ISBN 9789027222541 | EUR 85.00 | USD 128.00
ISBN 9789027287823 | EUR 85.00 | USD 128.00
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Somewhere and somehow, in the 5 to 7 million years since the last common ancestors of humans and the great apes, our ancestors “got” language. The authors of this volume all agree that there was no single mutation or cultural innovation that took our ancestors directly from a limited system of a few vocalizations (primarily innate) and gestures (some learned) to language. They further agree to use the term “protolanguage” for the beginnings of an open system of symbolic communication that provided the bridge to the use of fully expressive languages, rich in both lexicon and grammar. But here consensus ends, and the theories presented here range from the compositional view that protolanguage was based primarily on words akin to the nouns and verbs, etc., we know today with only syntax lacking to the holophrastic view that protolanguage used protowords which had no meaningful subunits which might nonetheless refer to complex but significantly recurrent events.

The present volume does not decide the matter but it does advance our understanding. The lack of any direct archaeological record of protolanguage might seem to raise insuperable difficulties. However, this volume exhibits the diversity of methodologies that can be brought to bear in developing datasets that can be used to advance the debate.

These articles were originally published as Interaction Studies 9:1 (2008).

[Benjamins Current Topics, 24] 2010.  xi, 181 pp.
Publishing status: Available
Table of Contents
Cited by

Cited by 13 other publications

Abraham, Werner
2019. What are the guiding principles in the evolution of language: Paradigmatics or syntagmatics?. Evolutionary Linguistic Theory 1:2  pp. 109 ff. DOI logo
Arbib, Michael
2024. Chapter 1. Pantomime within and beyond the evolution of language. In Perspectives on Pantomime [Advances in Interaction Studies, 12],  pp. 16 ff. DOI logo
Arbib, Michael A.
2011. From Mirror Neurons to Complex Imitation in the Evolution of Language and Tool Use. Annual Review of Anthropology 40:1  pp. 257 ff. DOI logo
Arbib, Michael A.
2015. From Action to Typology? A Neuro‐evolutionary Perspective. Language and Linguistics Compass 9:2  pp. 102 ff. DOI logo
Arbib, Michael A.
2015. From Action-Oriented Perception to Language. Cognitive Semiotics 8:1  pp. 1 ff. DOI logo
Arbib, Michael A.
2015. Language Evolution. In The Handbook of Language Emergence,  pp. 600 ff. DOI logo
Dessalles, Jean-Louis
2016. L’émergence du sens au cours de l’évolution. Langages N° 201:1  pp. 129 ff. DOI logo
Dor, Daniel
2023. Communication for collaborative computation: two major transitions in human evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 378:1872 DOI logo
Gil, David
2023. Bare and Constructional Compositionality. International Journal of Primatology DOI logo
Gontier, Nathalie
2024. Combinatoriality and Compositionality in Everyday Primate Skills. International Journal of Primatology DOI logo
2021. CHOMSKY’NİN PROBLEMİ: DİLİN EVRİMİ. Çukurova Üniversitesi Türkoloji Araştırmaları Dergisi 6:2  pp. 598 ff. DOI logo
Kirby, Simon
2017. Culture and biology in the origins of linguistic structure. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 24:1  pp. 118 ff. DOI logo
2013. Join the dots: A musical interlude in the evolution of language?. Journal of Linguistics 49:2  pp. 455 ff. DOI logo

This list is based on CrossRef data as of 16 june 2024. Please note that it may not be complete. Sources presented here have been supplied by the respective publishers. Any errors therein should be reported to them.


Main BIC Subject

CFF: Historical & comparative linguistics

Main BISAC Subject

LAN009000: LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General
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ONIX 2.1
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U.S. Library of Congress Control Number:  2010025972 | Marc record