Language Evolution

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What is it that makes us human? This is one of the most challenging and important questions we face. Our species' defining characteristic is language - we appear to be unique in the natural world in having such an incredibly open-ended system for putting thoughts into words. If we are to truly understand ourselves as a species we must understand the origins of this strange and unique ability. To do so, we need to answer some of the most intriguing questions in contemporary scientific research: Where did language come from? How did it evolve? Why are we unique in possessing it? This book, for the first time, brings together the leading thinkers who are trying to unlock the puzzle of language evolution. Here we see the latest ideas and theories from fields as diverse as anthropology, archaeology, artificial life, biology, cognitive science, linguistics, neuroscience, and psychology. In a series of seventeen well-written and accessible chapters we get an unrivalled view of the state of the art in this exciting area. Current controversies are revealed and new perspectives uncovered, in a clear and readable guide to the latest theories. This collection marks a major step forward in our quest to understand the origins and evolution of human language. In doing so it sheds new light on the process of evolution, the workings of the brain, the structure of language, and - most importantly - what it means to be human. Language Evolution is essential reading for researchers and students working in the areas covered, and has been used as a textbook for courses in the field. It will also attract the general reader who wants to know more about this fascinating subject.