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How Language Began: Gesture and Speech in Human Evolution

Series: Approaches to the Evolution of Language

By: David McNeill(Author)

275 pages, 167 b/w illustrations, 11 tables

Cambridge University Press

Paperback | Aug 2012 | #204879 | ISBN-13: 9781107605497
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £24.99 $33/€28 approx
Hardback | Aug 2012 | #204878 | ISBN-13: 9781107021211
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £66.99 $87/€76 approx

About this book

Human language is not the same as human speech. We use gestures and signs to communicate alongside, or instead of, speaking. Yet gestures and speech are processed in the same areas of the human brain, and the study of how both have evolved is central to research on the origins of human communication.

Written by one of the pioneers of the field, How Language Began is the first book to explain how speech and gesture evolved together into a system that all humans possess. Nearly all theorizing about the origins of language either ignores gesture, views it as an add-on or supposes that language began in gesture and was later replaced by speech.

In How Language Began David McNeill challenges the popular 'gesture-first' theory that language first emerged in a gesture-only form and proposes a groundbreaking theory of the evolution of language which explains how speech and gesture became unified.


1. Introduction - gesture and the origin of language
2. What evolved (in part) - the Growth Point
3. How it evolved (in part) - Mead's Loop
4. Effects of Mead's Loop
5. Ontogenesis in evolution - evolution in ontogenesis
6. Alternatives, their limits, and the science base of the Growth Point

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David McNeill is Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Psychology and Linguistics at the University of Chicago. His publications include Gesture and Thought (2005) and Language and Gesture (Cambridge University Press, 2000).

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