From experience to imagination: Language and its evolution as a social communication technology

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In this paper, I present a new general hypothesis concerning the origin and evolutionary development of human language and its speakers. The hypothesis is based on the theory of language I develop in Dor (2015): language should be properly understood as a social communication technology of a very particular type, collectively constructed for the specific function of the instruction of imagination. The hypothesis, then, runs as follows: pre-linguistic humans (most probably Homo erectus) developed their culture and their pre-linguistic communication to the point where the collective invention of language became both necessary and possible. The moment of the origin consisted of no more than exploratory attempts to use what had already been achieved to go into the realm of the instruction of imagination. When the new function began to show its potential, a developmental process was launched that was directly driven throughout by the constant pressure to raise the levels of collective success in instructive communication. Throughout the process, individuals were selected for their ability to meet the challenges of the emerging technology, and the required capacities were (partially and variably) genetically accommodated. Homo sapiens, an imaginative species adapted for fast speech, and maybe our sisters species too, eventually emerged from the collectively-driven process with unique adaptations to language.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-119
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Neurolinguistics
StatePublished - Aug 2017


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