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How Language Began
Gesture and Speech in Human Evolution

$45.99 (P)

Part of Approaches to the Evolution of Language

  • Date Published: October 2012
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107605497

$ 45.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • Human language is not the same as human speech. We use gestures and signs to communicate alongside, or instead of, speaking. Yet gestures and speech are processed in the same areas of the human brain, and the study of how both have evolved is central to research on the origins of human communication. Written by one of the pioneers of the field, this is the first book to explain how speech and gesture evolved together into a system that all humans possess. Nearly all theorizing about the origins of language either ignores gesture, views it as an add-on or supposes that language began in gesture and was later replaced by speech. David McNeill challenges the popular 'gesture-first' theory that language first emerged in a gesture-only form and proposes a groundbreaking theory of the evolution of language which explains how speech and gesture became unified.

    • Introduces a groundbreaking theory of how language began
    • Critically examines a wide range of accounts, from cognitive science, linguistics, neuroscience and the psychology of language
    • Complete with 50 illustrations depicting gestures and signs
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Long before embodied cognition was a recognized field of study, David McNeill was demonstrating the inseparability of language and gesture. In this new work he extends this pioneering approach to encompass the origins of human language.' Elena Levy, University of Connecticut

    '… grounded in the expertise of more than three decades of studying gestures with speech, this book will significantly change the scholarly debates on language evolution.' Cornelia Müller, Professor of Applied Linguistics, European University Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder)

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2012
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107605497
    • length: 275 pages
    • dimensions: 245 x 174 x 13 mm
    • weight: 0.55kg
    • contains: 167 b/w illus. 11 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction - gesture and the origin of language
    2. What evolved (in part) - the Growth Point
    3. How it evolved (in part) - Mead's Loop
    4. Effects of Mead's Loop
    5. Ontogenesis in evolution - evolution in ontogenesis
    6. Alternatives, their limits, and the science base of the Growth Point.

  • Author

    David McNeill, University of Chicago
    David McNeill is Professor Emeritus in the Departments of Psychology and Linguistics at the University of Chicago. His publications include Gesture and Thought (2005) and Language and Gesture (Cambridge, 2000).

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