How can we unravel the evolution of language, given that there is no direct evidence about it? Rudolf Botha addresses this intriguing question in his fascinating new book. Inferences can be drawn about language evolution from a range of other phenomena, serving as windows into this prehistoric process. These include shell-beads, fossil skulls and ancestral brains, modern pidgin and creole languages, homesign systems and emergent sign languages, modern motherese, language use of modern hunter-gatherers, first language acquisition, similarities between language and music, and comparative animal behaviour. The first systematic analysis of the Windows Approach, it will be of interest to students and researchers in many disciplines, including anthropology, archaeology, linguistics, palaeontology and primatology, as well as anyone interested in how language evolved.
"In 2006, Rudie Botha launched an all out attack on the legitimacy of the claim that the South African archaeological site of Blombos had evidence of 'fully syntactic' language 75,000 years ago. No one has been able to counter the logic of his argument, and this book applies that same relentless, illuminating logic to other claims in the study of language origins. In doing so, Botha shows just how carefully any claims must be justified, and just how powerful his Windows Approach is. Students and researchers in archaeology, primatology, linguistics, and comparative ethology cannot ignore this book."
– Iain Davidson, University of New England
"This book will prove to be a milestone in the field [...] a meticulous, rigorous, and yet highly readable guide."
– Paul T. Roberge, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Part I. Preliminaries:
1. The Windows Approach
2. Conceptual foundations of the approach
Part II. Correlate Windows:
3. Sea shells, ancient beads, and Middle Stone Age symbols
4. Fossil skulls and ancestral brains
Part III. Analogue Windows:
5. Incipient pidgins and creoles
6. Homesign systems and emergent sign languages
7. Modern motherese
8. Hunter-gatherers' use of language
9. Language acquisition
Part IV. Abduction Windows:
10. Modern music and language
11. Comparative animal behaviour
Part V. Epilogue:
12. A tool fit for demystifying language evolution?
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Rudolf Botha is Emeritus Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, and Honorary Professor of Linguistics at Utrecht Institute of Linguistics, Utrecht University, The Netherlands.