There's no language like our language, like no language we know. But how did it evolve?

Every normal child will rapidly acquire the native language to which it is exposed. It will do so with little teaching or coaching. A chimpanzee will fail to do so. Yet, chimpanzees are closer to humans, in genetic and evolutionary terms, than they are to gorillas. The only obvious and important deficit in the ape’s innate intelligence, as compared with man’s, is a missing faculty for using and understanding language. To determine how humans developed this unique capacity for language is the hardest problem in science. It is this problem the talk will address. The approach will be three pronged.

  • In the first part Wim de Geest will attempt to present a couple of innovative insights made possible by the new Evo-Devo and the modern linguistics perspective.
  • In the second part he shall illustrate what is specific for the human faculty of language in its narrow sense. Human linguistic communication is markedly discrete and recursive, to a degree that is obviously absent in other types of animal communication.
  • In the final part he shall present evidence in favor of a musical proto-language theory. This theory advances the hypothesis that mothers were the first to use a sort of musical motherese to remain in contact with infants who, largely due to bipedalism, could not easily be carried at all times. This scenario is consistent with the intricate relationship between music and language in the human brain.

par Wim de Geest