Books  Evolutionary Biology  Human Evolution & Anthropology 

Nature and Origin of Language

  • links the evolution of the brain to the origins and nature of language
  • links the evolution of the brain to the origins and nature of language
  • offers insights into language learnability
  • provides the basis for a new theory of syntax
  • offers insights into language learnability
  • written in non-technical language for the wide readership interested in the subject

Series: Oxford Studies in the Evolution of Language Volume: 18

By: Denis Bouchard(Author)

352 pages, b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press

Paperback | Sep 2013 | #207736 | ISBN-13: 9780199681631
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £29.99 $40/€34 approx
Hardback | Oct 2013 | #207735 | ISBN-13: 9780199681624
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £74.99 $101/€85 approx

About this book

Nature and Origin of Language looks at how the human brain got the capacity for language and how language then evolved. Its four parts are concerned with different views on the emergence of language, with what language is, how it evolved in the human brain, and finally how this process led to the properties of language.

Part I considers the main approaches to the subject and how far language evolved culturally or genetically. Part II argues that language is a system of signs and considers how these elements first came together in the brain. Part III examines the evidence for brain mechanisms to allow the formation of signs. Part IV shows how Nature and Origin of Language's explanation of language origins and evolution is not only consistent with the complex properties of languages but provides the basis for a theory of syntax that offers insights into the learnability of language and to the nature of constructions that have defied decades of linguistic analysis, including including subject-verb inversion in questions, existential constructions, and long-distance dependencies.

Denis Bouchard's outstandingly original account will interest linguists of all persuasions as well as cognitive scientists and others interested in the evolution of language.


Part I The emergence of language
1: Scenarios for the emergence of language

Part II What is language that it could have evolved?
2: Language facts and theory
3: The Sign Theory of Language

Part III The Origin of language from neurons to signs
4: The neurogenetic factors: Offline Brain Systems
5: The Emergence of Linguistic Signs
6: Self-organizing constraints due to building materials
7: The protolanguage hypothesis

Part IV Explaining the properties of language
8: Combinatorial signs and Universal Grammar
9: How signs account for some complex properties of language
10: In the beginning was the sign


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Denis Bouchard is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Quebec in Montreal. His publications include On the Content of Empty Categories (Foris Publications, 1984), Adjectives, Number and Interfaces (Elsevier Science, 2002), and The Semantics of Syntax (University of Chicago Press, 1995).

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