Friday, December 28, 2012

Origins of Human Communication

Michael Tomasello, 2008

Pointing is the genesis of human communication,
But unless the people communicating share knowledge significant to that being pointed at, and unless they all know that they all know,
Then the pointing is useless and carries no meaning.

DISPLAY--such as wide hips, which attract mates
--both form and meaning are fixed
--you can’t hide wide hips and you can’t make them mean something other than ‘good for child-rearing’
SIGNAL--intentional and flexible

The roots of human communication are in the gestural, not the vocal, communication of non-human primates.

For primates, the flexibility and intentionality of vocal communication is more akin to display than signal, even though they [primates] have the same capabilities (vocal range) as humans.

Though their vocal-auditory channel matches humans, it is primate gestures that match the more functional aspect of human communication.

Human communication is fundamentally cooperative, and requires shared intentionality and [could have] evolved as part of a larger human adaptation for cooperation and cultural life in general.
--culture requires cooperation
--the culture is the soma, the phenotype – not the individual but the culture as a body to be modified/adapted

Cooperation, Communication, Culture

(anti-Chomskian) the fundamental aspects of human communication are seen as bio-adaptations for cooperation and social interaction in general, whereas the more purely linguistic, inclusive, grammatical dimensions of language are culturally constructed and passed along by the individual linguistic communities.

W.H.Durham’s Primary/genetic vs. Secondary/cultural Forces of Transmission

W.H.Durham, 1991

Origins of Human Communication
Michael Tomasello, 2008, MIT

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