Independent on Sunday, 5 April 1998, pp44-45
BY MAREK KOHN
For centuries the origin of language has divided scientists. Now a new Darwinian theory is being proposed. But how can this make sense when our ability to talk depends on co-operation, and not competition?
SEVEN thousand tongues are spoken today, it’s said, and half a million may have come and gone since humans acquired the faculty of language, according to the Oxford biologist Mark Pagel. In their attempts to work out how that transformation might have occurred, scholars seem to have deployed comparable numbers of theories, perspectives, papers and bits of jargon. There are noun phrases, generative grammars, voice onset times and fricatives. Continue reading “Survival of the Chattiest”
Here are the course readings!
a) Politics of Sex and Kinship readings
b) Cognitive and Linguistic Anthropology readings
Bamberger, J 1974 The Myth of Primitive Matriarchy
Beckerman & Valentine 2002 The Concept of Partible Paternity
Biesele, M 1993 The Creation of the World
Hawkes, Kristen 2004 The Grandmother Effect
Hegel, G W F 1929  Logic
Katz, R 1982 Boiling Energy
Knight, C 1997 The wives of the sun and moon
Knight, C 2001 Does cultural evolution need matriliny?
Knight, C 2006a The Politics of Early Kinship
Knight, C 2006c Decoding Fairy Tales
Knight, C 2008 Early Human Kinship Was Matrilineal
Knight, C and C Power 2005 Grandmothers, Politics and Getting Back to Science
Lattas, 1989 Trickery and Sacrifice
Lewis, J 2008 Ekila: Blood, bodies, and egalitarian societies
Lévi-Strauss, C 1978 The Wives of the Sun and Moon
Ortner, S B 1974 Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?
Power, C nd(a) The Matrilineal Puzzle
Power, C nd(b) Sociobiology, Sex and Gender
Radcliffe-Brown, A R 1952  The Mother’s Brother in South Africa
Sahlins, M 1960 The Origin of Society
Siskind, J 1973 To Hunt in the Morning
Alcorta, S. and R. Sosis 2006 Ritual, Emotion and Sacred Symbols
Arcadi, A C 2000 Vocal Responsiveness in Male Wild Chimpanzees
Arnold, K. & K. Zuberbühler 2006 The Alarm-calling System of Adult Male Putty-nosed Monkeys
Austin, J 1962 How To Do Things With Words
Beaugrande, R de 1998 Performative Speech Acts in Linguistic Theory
Bloch, M 1975 Political Language and Oratory in Traditional Society
Bourdieu, P 1991 Authorised Language
Byrne, R W & N Corp 2004 Neocortex size predicts deception rate in primates
Chomsky, N 2005 Three factors in language design
Corballis, M 2002 Did Language Evolve from Manual Gestures?
Dessalles, J-L 1998 Altruism, Status and the Origin of Relevance
Hare, B & M Tomasello 2004 Chimpanzees are More Skilful in Competitive than in Cooperative Tasks
Hauser, M et al 2002 The Faculty of Language: What is it, who has it, and how did it evolve?
Hurford, J R 2002 The Roles of Expression and Representation in Language Evolution
Hurford, J R 2004 Human Uniqueness, Learned Symbols, and Recursive Thought
Kendon, A 1991 Some Considerations for a Theory of Language Origins
Knight, C 1999 Sex and Language as Pretend-Play
Knight, C 2000 The Evolution of Cooperative Communication
Knight, C 2000 Play as Precursor of Phonology and Syntax
Knight, C 2000 Culture, Cognition and Conflict
Knight, C 2002 Language and Revolutionary Consciousness
Knight, C 2003 Noam Chomsky: Politics or Science?
Knight, C 2004 Decoding Chomsky
MacNeilage, P 1998 Evolution of the Mechanism of Language Output
Melis, A P, B Hare & M Tomasello 2006 Engineering Cooperation in Chimpanzees: tolerance constraints on cooperation
Merker, B 2000 Synchronous chorusing and human origins
Richman, B 2000 How music fixed ‘nonsense’ into significant formulas
Steklis, H & S Harnad1976 From Hand to Mouth
Tomasello, M 2006 Why Don’t Apes Point?
Tomasello, M et al. 2007 The Cooperative Eye Hypothesis
Ulbaek, I 1998 The Origin of Language and Cognition
Chris Knight. Unpublished typescript, c.1982
‘Science’, according to Leon Trotsky, ‘is knowledge that endows us with power.’ In the natural sciences, the search has been for power over natural forces and processes. Astronomy made possible the earliest calendars, predictions of eclipses, accurate marine navigation. The development of medical science permitted an increasing freedom from and conquest of disease. The modern advances of physics, chemistry and the other natural sciences have today given us an immense power to harness natural forces of all kinds and have utterly transformed the world in which we live.
by Chris Knight
University of East London
In 1844, following a four-year voyage around the world, Charles Darwin confided to a close friend that he had come to a dangerous conclusion. For seven years, he wrote, he had been ‘engaged in a very presumptuous work’, perhaps ‘a very foolish one’. He had noticed that on each of the Galapagos Islands , the local finches ate slightly different foods, and had correspondingly modified beaks. In South America , he had examined many extraordinary fossils of extinct animals. Pondering the significance of all this, he had felt forced to change his mind about the origin of species. To his friend, Darwin wrote: ‘I am almost convinced (quite contrary to the opinion I started with) that species are not (it is like confessing a murder) immutable’.
Most anthropologists have tacitly assumed that human culture was established by men. The ‘Man the Hunter’ myth has dominated palaeoanthropology, now, almost since the inception of the discipline. Through the 1960s and 1970s, it was taken as self-evident that the sexual division of labour, with males going away hunting and bringing home the bacon, emerged millions of years ago in a process linked with the evolution of bipedalism, tool-making and the unusually large human brain.