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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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Holistic communication and the co‐evolution of language and music: resurrecting an old idea

Holistic communication and the co‐evolution of language and music: resurrecting an old idea

(p.58) 4 Holistic communication and the co‐evolution of language and music: resurrecting an old idea
The Prehistory of Language

Steven Mithen

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that we should return to ideas about the relationship between language and music advocated by scholars such as Rousseau, Darwin, and Jespersen. It further articulates the view that language and music co-evolved — a view that is tied in with recent arguments to the effect that protolanguage was holistic. It is argued that the proposal of a music-like protolanguage enables us not only to explain certain continuities between human speech and primate vocal communication but also to explain the seeming alacrity with which newborn infants respond to language and music alike, and the significant overlaps of the respective brain regions recruited for language and music. In addition, the chapter cites different reasons for assuming that protolanguage used holistic phrases, not compositional ones. It discusses a number of reasons why so-called hominin holistic phrase communication would have had a degree of musicality. In interweaving various strands of evidence, the chapter illustrates the extent to which work on language evolution has become an interdisciplinary endeavor.

Keywords:   language development, language capacity, music, evolution, protolanguage, speech, holistic phrase communication

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