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  • Cited by 2
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    This article has been cited by the following publications. This list is generated based on data provided by CrossRef.

    Clowry, Gavin J. 2014. Seeking clues in brain development to explain the extraordinary evolution of language in humans. Language Sciences, Vol. 46, p. 220.

    Milbrath, Constance 2013. Socio-cultural selection and the sculpting of the human genome: Cultures’ directional forces on evolution and development. New Ideas in Psychology, Vol. 31, Issue. 3, p. 390.


The potential for genetic adaptations to language

  • Mark Pagel (a1) and Quentin D. Atkinson (a2)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 October 2008

We suggest there is somewhat more potential than Christiansen & Chater (C&C) allow for genetic adaptations specific to language. Our uniquely cooperative social system requires sophisticated language skills. Learning and performance of some culturally transmitted elements in animals is genetically based, and we give examples of features of human language that evolve slowly enough that genetic adaptations to them may arise.

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Q. Atkinson , A. Meade , C. Venditti , S. Greenhill & M. Pagel (2008) Languages evolve in punctuational bursts. Science 319:588.

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F. Nottebohm (2005) The neural basis of birdsong. PLoS Biology 3:e164.

M. Pagel (2008) Rise of the digital machine. Nature 452:699.

M. Pagel , Q. D. Atkinson & A. Meade (2007) Frequency of word-use predicts rates of lexical evolution throughout Indo-European history. Nature 449:717–21.

P. M. Thompson , T. D. Cannon , K. L. Narr , T. van Erp , V. P. Poutanen , M. Huttunen , J. Lönnqvist , C. G. Standertskjöld-Nordenstam , J. Kaprio , M. Khaledy , R. Dail , C. I. Zoumalan & A. W. Toga (2001) Genetic influences on brain structure. Nature Neuroscience 4:1253–58.

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Behavioral and Brain Sciences
  • ISSN: 0140-525X
  • EISSN: 1469-1825
  • URL: /core/journals/behavioral-and-brain-sciences
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