Jean-Louis Dessalles explores the co-evolutionary paths of biology,
culture, and the great human edifice of language, linking the evolution of
the language to the general evolutionary history of humankind. He provides
searchingly original answers to such fundamental paradoxes as to whether we
acquired our greatest gift in order to talk or so as to be able to think,
and as to why human beings should, as experience constantly confirms,
contribute information for the well-being of others at their own expense
and for no apparent gain: which if this is one of language's main functions
appears to make its possession, in Darwinian terms, a disadvantage. Dr.
Dessalles looks for solutions in the early history of human species and
considers the degree to which language evolved as a means of choosing
profitable coalition partners and maximizing individual success within a
competitive social environment.
The author opens with a discussion of the differences between animal and
human communication and the biological foundations of language. He looks at
the physiological preconditions for language evolution and the early
evolution of meaning and communication. He then embarks on an important and
original account of the natural history of conversation. Here he considers
the roles of language in supporting social cohesion and information exchange.
This challenging and original account will appeal to all those interested
in the origins of language and the evolution of human behavior.