LINGUIST List 16.850

Mon Mar 21 2005

Books: Cog Sci/Neuroling: Johansson

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        1.    Paul Peranteau, Origins of Language: Johansson

Message 1: Origins of Language: Johansson

Date: 16-Mar-2005
From: Paul Peranteau <>
Subject: Origins of Language: Johansson

Title: Origins of Language
Subtitle: Constraints on hypotheses
Series Title: Converging Evidence in Language and Communication Research 5
Published: 2005
Publisher: John Benjamins

Book URL:

Author: Sverker Johansson, University of Jönköping
Hardback: ISBN: 902723891 Pages: xii, 346 Price: Europe EURO 95.00
Hardback: ISBN: 1588116298 Pages: xii, 346 Price: U.S. $ 114.00

Sverker Johansson has written an unusual book on language origins, with its
emphasis on empirical evidence rather than theory-building. This is a book
for the student or researcher who prefers solid data and well-supported
conclusions over speculative scenarios. Much that has been written on the
origins of language is characterized by hypothesizing largely unconstrained
by evidence. But empirical data do exist, and the purpose of this book is
to integrate and review the available evidence from all relevant
disciplines, not only linguistics but also, e.g., neurology, primatology,
paleoanthropology, and evolutionary biology. The evidence is then used to
constrain the multitude of scenarios for language origins, demonstrating
that many popular hypotheses are untenable. Among the issues covered: (1)
Human evolutionary history, (2) Anatomical prerequisites for language, (3)
Animal communication and ape "language", (4) Mind and language, (5) The
role of gesture, (6) Innateness, (7) Selective advantage of language, (8)

Table of contents

Preface p.x

1. Introduction p. 1
2. What is language? p.5
3. The theory of evolution p.13
4. Human origins and evolution p.41
5. Anatomical and neurological prerequisites p.77
6. Animal communication in the wild p.119
7. Can nonhumans be taught language? p.129
8. Language, mind, and self p.143
9. Hypotheses of language origins 157
10. Why did language evolve? p.193
11. Protolanguage

12. Conclusions p.243

References p.248

Index p. 331

"Sverker Johansson offers us an impressive review of current theories on
the origins of language, one of the most stimulating scientific debates of
the nascent century. The book is clear, clever, exhaustive, and has the
rare quality of being faithful to all the theories it describes. It is
essential readings for all those who want to be part of the fascinating
adventure of understanding the origins of humanity. This is a reference
book, not only for students, but also for researchers in the field, and I
will be digging frequently into this mine of knowledge."
Jean-Louis Dessalles, ParisTech ENST

"Johansson's review of the existing theories of language evolution is
excellent and provides a good introduction to the field. Even though he
does not formulate a theory of his own, I find the constraints on theories
of language evolution that he formulates very clear-headed and they should
certainly serve as benchmarks for any researcher in the area."
Peter Gärdenfors, Professor of Cognitive Science, Lund University, Sweden

"In total it is a valuable review - currently the most complete in its
breadth and balance of any yet published - and I would consider using it in
an upperdivision course."
Terence Deacon

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science

Written In: English (ENG )

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