Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Language Evolution$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Morten H. Christiansen and Simon Kirby

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780199244843

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199244843.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use (for details see www.oxfordscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy).date: 25 March 2019

What Are the Uniquely Human Components of the Language Faculty?

What Are the Uniquely Human Components of the Language Faculty?

(p.158) 9 What Are the Uniquely Human Components of the Language Faculty?
Language Evolution

Marc D. Hauser

W. Tecumseh Fitch

Oxford University Press

Taking a biologist's perspective on language evolution, this chapter advocates the use of a comparative method for exploring the various other components that make up the human language ability. It argues that studying animals, in particular nonhuman primates, is the only way to determine which components of language may be unique to humans and which may be shared with other species. With respect to speech perception, the evidence suggests that the underlying mechanisms also are shared with other mammals. The mechanisms underlying the speech production and perception in modern humans did not evolve for their current purposes; rather, they evolved for other communicative or cognitive functions in a common ancestor to humans and chimpanzees. However, the fundamental difference between humans and nonhuman animals is the capacity to use recursive syntax — the ability to take units of language, such as words, and recombine them to produce an open-ended variety of meaningful expressions.

Keywords:   language, language evolution, language ability, nonhuman primates, speech perception, recursive syntax, speech production

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .