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The Prehistory of Language$
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Rudolf Botha and Chris Knight

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199545872

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199545872.001.0001

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Is sociality a crucial prerequisite for the emergence of language? *

Is sociality a crucial prerequisite for the emergence of language? *

Chapter:
(p.36) 3 Is sociality a crucial prerequisite for the emergence of language?*
Source:
The Prehistory of Language
Author(s):

Luc Steels

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199545872.003.0003

This chapter reports theoretical research exploring the hypothesis that language evolved in a cultural fashion as a complex adaptive system. It does not propose a theory to explain how sociality may have arisen or how it gets reinforced by an existing language system. Instead, it examines the extent to which ultrasociality is indeed a crucial prerequisite. Is it the case that if the sociality assumption is not adopted at the linguistic level, communication systems do not get off the ground at all? Is sociality not only a sufficient but also a necessary condition for the emergence and transmission of complex symbol-based communication? And how strict does sociality have to be? Is it possible that some form of linguistic cheating can be tolerated? And how can an existing communication system reinforce sociality once it has emerged? Before delving into these issues, the chapter first summarizes the main hypothesis for the cultural evolution of language (section 3.2), gives an example of the language-game experiments we have been carrying out (section 3.3), and then turns to the sociality question itself (section 3.4).

Keywords:   sociality, language development, language capacity, evolution, adaptive system, ultrasociality

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