The Origins of Human Language

$75 Limited inc GST / $68
The Origins of Human Language

<p>How, when and why did humans first develop language? Answers to these questions are highly speculative and give rise to a range of unusual ideas. We will look at the ‘Bow Wow’, ‘Hey Ho’ and other

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How, when and why did humans first develop language? Answers to these questions are highly speculative and give rise to a range of unusual ideas. We will look at the ‘Bow Wow’, ‘Hey Ho’ and other oddly named theories. We will examine some recent ideas about language and gossip and grooming (nit-picking?) in some detail and provide some further clues as to how we have developed from grunting chimps to chatting chumps. We will look at what we can safely say we know about the origins of human language and give some definition to that which we will never know.


SUGGESTED READING

  • Dunbar. 1997. Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language. Harvard University Press. Or anything by Dunbar


COURSE OUTLINE

  • Explore the possibility of pre-historic evidence for language use and consider the relationship between the development of language, bipedal stance, tool making and a range of ecological factors.
  • Define the differences between human language and animal communications.
  • Describe each of the classic theories of language origins (“bow-wow” theory – “ding-dong” theory – “pooh-pooh” theory – “yo-he-ho” theory – “sing-song” theory – “ta-ta” theory)
  • Relate the history of ideas about language origins, including the banning of the topic by the Académie française in the 19th century
  • Review Robin Dunbar’s refutation of these theories and present his ideas about the relationship between language development and social grooming. (see suggested reading)


PLANNED LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  1. Give some dimensions to the prehistorical development of human language.
  2. Provide examples of the range of differences between human language and animal communications.
  3. Be able to account for the numerous theories of the origins of human language.
  4. Provide reasoning as to why or why not these theories might be possible or even probable.
  5. Understand the arguments put forward by Robin Dunbar in outlining his social grooming theories.