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Join the dots: A musical interlude in the evolution of language?1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 February 2013

Newcastle University, UK
Author's address: Linguistics Section, SELLL, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU,


This review article examines the major premises concerning the evolution of language offered in Tecumseh Fitch's The Evolution of Language (2010). Various aspects of Fitch's argumentation are disputed, specifically including the idea that language was preceded in evolution by a musical protolanguage stage in which there were no words, but which instead exhibited a prosodic, meaningless ‘bare phonology’. According to Fitch, this putative stage in language evolution also laid the foundations for syntax, providing musical phrases which were subsequently filled by meaningful words. Counterarguments to these ideas are presented, and an alternative, word-based model of protolanguage is defended.

Review Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2013 

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Various erudite scholars read the first draft and saved me from myself in numerous ways. I am truly grateful to Steve Anderson, Christina Behme, Kathleen Gibson, Jim Hurford, Nigel Vincent and also to three referees for the Journal of Linguistics. They may be a teeny bit to blame for the proliferation of footnotes, but all faults and errors are mine.


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Join the dots: A musical interlude in the evolution of language?1
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