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Evolution of Language. Language : Cultural Dynamics, Genetics Recent Attention, Gene-Culture theory Wang & Minnett. 2005. The invasion of language: emergence, change and death. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 20 :263. Evolution of Language.

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evolution of language
Evolution of Language

Language: Cultural Dynamics, Genetics

Recent Attention, Gene-Culture theory

Wang & Minnett. 2005. The invasion of language:

emergence, change and death. Trends in Ecology & Evolution20:263.

evolution of language2
Evolution of Language

Language: Distinguishes humans from other animals? Important?

Language: 3 Elements (de Saussure)

Langage: Physical, Cognitive & Cultural (All)

Langue: Words, Grammar (Particular Culture)

Parole: Individual’s speech

evolution of language3
Evolution of Language


How did language first arise?

How does innovation invade & spread?

How do languages compete for speakers

within & between populations?

How do languages go extinct?

evolution of language4
Evolution of Language

Jones (1786): Sanskrit, Greek & Latin

Post-Darwin: Language phylogenies

Today: Single ancestral language, ‘proto-Sapiens’

vs ‘polygenesis’

evolution of language5
Evolution of Language

160K YBP: First Modern Humans

50K YBP: ‘Cultural Explosion’

Innovations, painting, funerals

Language (presumably) preceded cultural growth

evolution of language6
Evolution of Language

120K YBP: Human FOXP2 allele fixed

‘Grammar gene,’ apparently strong positive selection since human & chimp lineages split

Movements of mouth & face,

formation of linguistic syntax,

comprehension (?)



Figure 1 A multidisciplinary perspective on language evolution.

Fisher SE and Marcus GF (2005) The eloquent ape: genes, brains and the evolution of language

Nat Rev gene.7: 9–20 doi:10.1038/nri1747

evolution of language9
Evolution of Language

Language Emergence:

(Gene) 120K YBP < time < 50K YBP (Culture)

Incremental Language ‘Strategies’

Hunter-Gatherer Groups

evolution of language10
Evolution of Language

All Cultures Have Language

6000 Languages Today (many unwritten)

50 to 90 % Extinct by 2100 (?)

Socio-economic competition (cultural evolution)

English, Spanish Replace Native Languages

Competition between Languages for Speakers

languages going extinct http www foreignpolicy com story files story206 php
Languages Going Extincthttp://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/files/story206.php
language competition abrams strogatz 2003 nature 424 900
Language Competition (Abrams & Strogatz, 2003, Nature 424:900)

Language Interaction Produces Bilingual Speakers

Bilingual Individual: “Drop” Language if not economically useful

One Monolingual Type Can Disappear

evolution of language14
Evolution of Language

Origin & Maintenance of Language

Innovation (Invasion): Words, Languages

Growth, Decline Use; Language Extinction

Gene-Culture Evolutionary Ecology