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The Origins of Language

What Nonhuman Primates Can Tell Us

Edited by Barbara J. King

The Origins of Language1999. 464 pp., 19 black-and-white illustrations, 8 tables, notes, references, index, 6 x 91999. 464 pp., 19 black-and-white illustrations, 8 tables, notes, references, index, 6 x 9

Is human language unique in the animal world, or does it have meaningful precursors in animal communication? In The Origins of Language, ten primatologists and paleoanthropologists conduct a comprehensive examination of the nonhuman primate data, discussing different views of what language is and suggesting how the primatological perspective can be used to fashion more rigorous theories of language origins and evolution. Together, the essays make a powerful case against the position that language is an innate biological system unique to humans and demonstrate that many aspects of language likely have a long evolutionary history-one that extends back beyond hominids to encompass our closest living relatives in the animal world.

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Contributors: Robbins Burling, Iain Davidson, Kathleen Gibson, Stephen Jessee, Barbara J. King, Dario Maestripieri, Lorraine McCune, Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, Charles Snowden, Sherman Wilcox

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Download an excerpt (PDF, 98 KB).

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  • “[A]ltogether this book stimulates many ideas from one approach to language origins. It is well written, thoroughly referenced, and makes a substantial contribution to the ongoing discussion of this issue.”
    Anne Zeller, The Semiotic Review of Books, vol. 14.2 (2004)

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