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Oxford University Press
15 March 2014
Origins of Language: A Slim Guide offers a concise and accessible overview of what is known about the evolution of the human capacity for language. Non-human animals communicate in simple ways: they may be able to form simple concepts, to feel some limited empathy for others, to cooperate to some extent, and to engage in mind-reading. Human language, however, is characterized by its ability to efficiently express a wide range of subtle and complex meanings. After the first simple beginnings, human language underwent an explosion of complexity, leading to the very complicated systems of grammar and pronunciation found in modern languages. Jim Hurford looks at the very varied aspects of this evolution, covering human prehistory; the relation between instinct and learning; biology and culture; trust, altruism, and cooperation; animal thought; human and non-human vocal anatomy; the meanings and forms of the first words; and the growth of complex systems of grammar and pronunciation. Written by an internationally recognized expert in the field, it draws on a number of disciplines besides linguistics, including philosophy, neuroscience, genetics, and animal behaviour, and will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in language origins and evolution.
By:   James R. Hurford (Emeritus Professor Emeritus Professor University of Edinburgh)
Imprint:   Oxford University Press
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 216mm,  Width: 141mm,  Spine: 12mm
Weight:   244g
ISBN:   9780198701880
ISBN 10:   0198701888
Pages:   192
Publication Date:   15 March 2014
Audience:   College/higher education ,  A / AS level
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active
1. The prehistory of a very special ape ; 2. Nature, nurture, and language ; 3. How trusted talk started ; 4. Concepts before language ; 5. We began to speak, and hear differently ; 6. Coining words ; 7. Building powerful grammar engines ; 8. Pronunciation gets complex

James R. Hurford, Emeritus Professor, University of Edinburgh James R. Hurford is Emeritus Professor at the University of Edinburgh, where he was previously Professor of General Linguistics from 1979 until his retirement in 2009. Over the last 25 years he has pioneered the rebirth of serious scientific interest in the origins and evolution of language. He co-founded with Chris Knight the biennial international conferences on the evolution of language (known as EVOLANG), with Simon Kirby the Language Evolution and Computation Research Unit at the University of Edinburgh, and with Kathleen Gibson the OUP series on language evolution. His previous publications include The Origins of Meaning (OUP 2007) and The Origins of Grammar (OUP 2011).

Reviews for The Origins of Language: A Slim Guide

This short guide to modern empirical research on language evolution provides a breezy and readable introduction to the many issues involved in understanding how humans came to possess one of our most prized capacities: our ability to acquire and use language. -- Tecumseh Fitch, University of Vienna Jim Hurford has produced a work of stunning depth and breadth, expertly condensed in this slim guide. These are notoriously difficult questions: How did the capacity for language evolve in the deep history of our species? How do different languages evolve in the more recent histories of our societies? Hurford is one of the few scholars with the authority and interdisciplinary reach to give us compelling and plausible answers. The Origins of Language is a rare achievement, and highly recommended. -- N. J. Enfield, Max Planck Institute, Nijmegen, and University of Sydney Hurford has written a delightful little book, an ideal point of entry into the range of complex issues facing anyone that wants to understand how human language evolved. Darwin himself would have cherished this guide. -- Cedric Boeckx, ICREA/Universitat de Barcelona No one has thought more deeply about the evolution of the human language faculty than James Hurford, and no one writes about the topic more engagingly. In this book he explains and synthesizes the most important findings concerning language evolution from across a wide variety of scientific disciplines, including linguistics, biology, ethology, psychology, and cognitive science. His writing is always grounded in evidence-based argumentation, yet is informative and clear for the non-specialist reader. To introduce in such a short work all the major aspects of the evolution of language from the beginnings of a special human type of communication to the emergence of sound systems, through meaning to symbolic words to sentence structure is an impressive feat. To make it not only thorough but thoroughly readable is a real

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