Beyond protolanguage: Contemporary problems in the evolution of language
AbstractThe emergence of the uniquely human ability to acquire and use language has invariably been perceived as a problem that is both exceptionally difficult and intriguing. Conjectures regarding the sources of language have never been in short supply, substantiating some of the mistrust in the purposefulness of this type of study. The earliest manifestations of this mistrust – such as the famous 1866 “ban” on the inquiry into language origins, found in the statute
of Société de Linguistique de Paris – have acquired a legendary status; but it is interesting to observe that as recently as thirty years ago it was fair for linguists to claim that the phylogeny of language was irrelevant to linguistic
research, constituting a proprietary area of mythological, religious or philosophical reflection (e.g. Fisiak 1985).
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