Human evolution theory utilizing concepts of neoteny & female sexual selection
An etiology of neuropsychological disorders such as autism and dyslexia, and the origin of left handedness.

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 Library of Excerpts

Gesture and Sign Language and Human Evolution


"Considerable discussion has centered on the question of whether a gestural language of a vocal language evolved first. The proponents of a gestural language note that considerable nonvocal communication occurs among apes (Hewes, 1973a, b), and experiments indicate that chimpanzees can be taught elements of human sign languge (Gardner and Garder, 1972) but not to speak (Hayes, 1951; Hayes and Nissan, 1971). On the other side, Washburn and Strum (1972) and Washburn (1973) have pointed out that the essential character of human vocally based language is that it is a system whereby, through the recombination of a limited number to arbitrary elements (phonemes), it is possible to produce vocal signs for a potentially endelss variety of meanings." (Tanner, Nancy M. (1981) On Becoming Human: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge p. 127)

"By letting go the conviction that the basis for understanding language is through the study of speech and by looking to vision as the major primate and human perceptual system (Gibson, 1966; Neisser, 1967; Edelman, 1987, 1989; Clark, 1963), we may escape the error of mistaking the acoustic manifestation of language for language itself." (Armstrong DF, Stokoe WC, Wilcox SE (1995) Gesture and the Nature of Language. Cambridge Univ. Press: Cambridge p. 80)

"The organization of visible gestures, which are kinetically and visibly indistinguishable from the words of a sign language, is quite different from the organization of spoken words. The phonology of sign language words is essentially "semantic phonology." That is to say, a sign language word can be analyzed. But when a sign language word is analysed as what it is and not as a homologue of a spoken word, two components appear: what is active (a hand or hands or other body part) and what it does (the motion or action of that part). So described, the sign language word has the structure of a miniature sentence: what is active is the agent of subject or "S," and what it does is the action or verb or "V." Moreover, in many sign language words (those using a hand or hands as agent), the action is transitive - it ends by touching, grazing, grasping, or striking another body part (the patient or object or "O"). (Armstrong DF, Stokoe WC, Wilcox SE (1995) Gesture and the Nature of Language. Cambridge Univ. Press: Cambridge p. 89)

"A producer's and a hearer's attachment of meaning to, and perception of meaning in, vocal sound, however, would not be difficult at all for a group in which primate visual gestural communication had already evolved to the level of language - a group making manual, facial, postural words and sentences. Association of different vocal sounds with already known visual gesture-meaning pairs would be a further step easy to take." (Armstrong DF, Stokoe WC, Wilcox SE (1995) Gesture and the Nature of Language. Cambridge Univ. Press: Cambridge p. 150)

"Neurological research has shown that one of those brain structures, Broca's area may be just as intimately connected with timing and sequencing complex arm and hand and facial activity as with vocal activity (Kimura & Archibald, 1974). If visible gestures were early and for long periods used as words, the same enormously expanded interconnections between perceptual and central processing and motor networks could have - just as much as the use of spoken words - led to increase in brain size and required the evolution of the timing and sequencing functions in Broca's area. Moreover, existence of an early sign language, whatever the size of its lexicon, would solve a problem that Lieberman's own research poses. His experiments suggest that Neandertal vocal tracts could not have produced all of the sounds required by languages of the kind that Homo sapeins uses (particularly { i } and { a }), yet Neandertal burials strongly suggest human culture. Neandertals may have been unable to manage fully a spoken language because of their vocal tract physiology, but if they had a system of visible signs for making works and could also form sentences from them - and there is no evidence that they could not - they would, by definition, have had a language and a culture with genuinely human characteristics." (Armstrong DF, Stokoe WC, Wilcox SE (1995) Gesture and the Nature of Language. Cambridge Univ. Press: Cambridge p. 175)

"We have presented the argument made by Kendon (1991) that a division of labor and something to talk about might have been sufficient to start the hominids down the road toward fully realized languages. Problems remain, however. Premack (1986: 133) puts one of the problems in these terms: language is "an embarrassment for evolutionary theory because it is vastly more powerful than one can account for in terms of selective fitness." Kendon implies that hominids in a new niche would have needed to communicate in increasing complexity about their environment and its resources; Premack's suggestion is that this sort of communication would not have necessitated something as powerful as modern languages. This point is made in arguments that relate the emergence of language to the rapid development of technologies beginning in the Upper Paleolithic (e.g. Davidson & Noble, 1989; Dibble, 1989). The problem with these late-onset, unused capacity arguments is that the brain had already become very large by the time of the appearance of Homo erectus, the hands were modern, and the vocal apparatus had begun to evolve toward its modern configuration (Laitman, 1985). Something must have been going on that was not evident in the archeological record of the development of material culture." (Armstrong DF, Stokoe WC, Wilcox SE (1995) Gesture and the Nature of Language. Cambridge Univ. Press: Cambridge p. 230)



"It seems to us that language is not dualistically separated from its physical realization; rather, it is deeply rooted ontogenetically and phylogenetically in its bodily basis. Neither is grammar independent of meaning. This view is compatible with cognitive or functional theories of language such as those of Bybee (1985), Deane (1991), Givon (1989), Lakoff (1987), and Langacker (1987; 1991). This alternative approach is certainly not new. Jesperson (1924:17), for example, remarked that: 'The essence of language is human activity - activity on the part of one individual to make himself understood by another, and activity on the part of that other to understand what was in the mind of the first.' Deane (1993) outlines two broad approaches to language. The first stresses discontinuity between core linguistic abilities and other, broader domains: 'Grammar is isolated and examined as an axiomatic formal system' (Deane, 1993: 8). The second view stresses continuity between language and other mental capacities" 'Language is consistently placed in the context of its social and communicative functions. Linguistic structures, processes and categories are viewed as instantiations of the categories, processes and structures which comprise human intelligence.' Deane (1991) argues for this second view of language based on an elaboration of George Lakoff's (1987: 283) Spatialization of Form Hypothesis. According to the Spatialization of Form Hypothesis, grammar is ultimately spatial. Deane suggests that several predictions regarding the relation between grammar and cognition follow from this hypothesis (363-364):
(i) According to the hypothesis, the acquisition of grammatical competence occurs when linguistic information is routed to and processed by spatial centers in the brain.
(ii) Specifically, it is claimed that linguistic expressions are processed as if they were objects with internal structural configurations. That is, they are processed in terms of certain basic image schemas, namely part-whole and linkage schemas critical to the recognition of the configurations which define complex physical objects.
(iii) But as Johnson (1987) argues at length, image schemas are basically embodied schemas, high level schemas which function as cognitive models of the body and its interaction with the environment.
In other words, the Spatialization of Form Hypothesis treats grammar as a form of image-schemaic thought in which words, phrases, and sentences are endowed with an abstract structure grounded in immediate bodily experience of physical objects. It therefore predicts as association between grammar and such cognitive abilities as object recognition, spatial structure, and body awareness, especially modeling bodily movement and position is space." (Armstrong DF, Stokoe WC, Wilcox SE (1995) Gesture and the Nature of Language. Cambridge Univ. Press: Cambridge p. 34-36)

"It is to say, however, that nothing so far seems to have as much potential as visible gestures involving an actor and its action for guiding hominids to the act of symbolizing relations as well as things. Simply put, with visible signs it is possible to make sentences as well as words, to evolve syntax as well as a knack for naming things." (Armstrong DF, Stokoe WC, Wilcox SE (1995) Gesture and the Nature of Language. Cambridge Univ. Press: Cambridge p. 23)

"We note that neurolinguistic research on deaf signers of ASL (Poizner et al., 1987; Kimura, 1981, 1993) has shown that areas of frontal and parietal cortex in the left hemisphere of the cerebrum are critical to signing as well as speech." (Armstrong DF, Stokoe WC, Wilcox SE (1995) Gesture and the Nature of Language. Cambridge Univ. Press: Cambridge p. 25)

"Present-tense time signs occur in a plane parallel to the signer's body and intersecting at the front of the face. Future signs are located on the time line in front of this plane; past signs, behind it." (Siple, Patricia (1978) Linguistic and Psychological Properties of American Sign Language: An Overview. in Understanding Language Through Sign Language Research (P. Siple ed.): Academic Press, New York. p. 13)

"In light of all that has been learned about both the structure of the nervous system and the behavior of species since Descartes' day, it is merely absurd-possible to salvage only with the logical, if counter-factual, strategy of the hardcore behaviorist who would claim that animals are automata but that so too are we. There are four possible answers to the question, "Who had consciousness, volition, etc.?" (all the so-called "nonphysical" attributes summed up under the illegitimate label mind): animals do, but we don't; animals don't, but we do; animals don't, and we don't; animals do , and we do. In all the history of human folly, I know of no one who has seriously asserted the first. The second is Descartes' answer. The third is the hardcore behaviorist's answer. The fourth, curiously enough, has seldom been made and has been scorned almost as often as it has been made, although in light of what we know now it would seem the most logical." (Bickerton, D (1981) Roots of Language. Karoma Publishers: Ann Arbor. p. 220-221)

"A further telling, if oblique, bit of evidence for this claim comes from Gill and Rumbaugh (1974), who report that it took Lana 1,600 trials to learn the names for banana and M&M, but that the next five items were acquired in less than five trials each -- two of them in two only." (Bickerton, D (1981) Roots of Language. Karoma Publishers: Ann Arbor. p. 236)

"The child does not, initially, "learn language." As he develops, the genetic program for language which is his hominid inheritance unrolls exactly as does the genetic program that determines his increase in size, muscular control, etc. "Learning" consists of adapting this program, revising it, adjusting it to fit the realities of hte cultural language he happens to encounter. Without such a program, the simplest of cultural languages would presumably be quite unlearnable. But the learning process is not without its tensions -- the child tends to hang on to his innate grammar for as long as possible -- so that the "learning trajectory" of any human child will show traces of the bioprogram, and bioprogram rules and structures may make their way into adult speech whenever the model of the cultural language is weakened." (Bickerton, D (1981) Roots of Language. Karoma Publishers: Ann Arbor. p. 296-7)

"Hearing children begin to babble at approximately 6 months of age; deaf children do also -- but with their hands. This gestural babbling has been reported by investigators attempting to study auditory babbling in deaf children as well as by deaf parents. At about 1 year, children begin to produce one-word utterances. At the same age, a deaf child in a sign environment begins to produce single signs. Two-word strings are formed by hearing children at about 18 to 24 months of age. Deaf children within the same age range begin to form two-sign strings." (Siple, Patricia (1978) Linguistic and Psychological Properties of American Sign Language: An Overview. in Understanding Language Through Sign Language Research (P. Siple ed.): Academic Press, New York. p. 14)

"Although none of the nearly 70 subjects in these studies failed to acquire at least one sign, the final outcome, in terms of each individual subject's linguistic performance, appeared to vary widely. For example, some of the children, after acquiring facility in sign language, learned to use spoken English and eventually made the transition to public school classrooms. At the other extreme, a small number of children never learned to use more than a handful of signs, although in several of these cases the children reportedly comprehended a much larger number of signs but experienced difficulty in the gestural production. Most of the children, however, succeeded in acquiring a working vocabulary (from a dozen up to several hundred signs) over a period of several years, and they learned to combine the signs spontaneously into phrases or sentences conveying a wide range of ideas. In comparison with the very limited progress toward effective communication previously exhibited by the children, their progress in sign acquisition was remarkable. Furthermore, nearly all the children showed concomitant improvement in social behavior: Tantrums, soilings, and sterotyped repetitive movements markedly decreased in frequency or disappeared in the children." (Bonvillian JD & Nelson KE (1978) Development of sign language in autistic children and other language-handicapped individuals. in P. Siple (Ed.), Understanding language through sign language research. Academic Press: New York p. 198)

[autistic children] "Dispite the remarkable diversity there are three fundamental observations that applied to all the studies. One is that each program relied on sign or sign language as one central element of the language-training program. The second is that all but one of the children acquired some elements of productive and/or receptive sign language, ranging from a few individual signs to considerable ability in spontaneous sentences. The third is that for children who progressed in speech as well as sign, the progress in sign language appeared crucial as a foundation for the changes in speech skills: The sign progress predated and appeared to guide or support the spoken language advances. Taken together, this set of studies very powerfully suggests that sign language itself, rather than other elements of the treatment programs, was essential in opening up communicative exchanges with many of the children and to advances in speech production, speech comprehension, an social behavior as well as sign production and comprehension." (Bonvillian JD & Nelson KE (1978) Development of sign language in autistic children and other language-handicapped individuals. in P. Siple (Ed.), Understanding language through sign language research. Academic Press: New York p.203)

"Recent work by many investigators with widely varying backgrounds has shown that language programs involving simultaneous speech and sign are effective in teaching rudiments of sign language to autistic, retarded, and aphasic chidren and adults who have severe deficits in oral language skills. Beyond this, for the first time in their lives many of these individuals learned to communicate complex messages through spontaneously produced phrases or sentences in sign language. A small minority of subjects also began to use spontaneous speech after developing facility in sign language. Social skills in most cases advanced along with advances in language." (Bonvillian JD & Nelson KE (1978) Development of sign language in autistic children and other language-handicapped individuals. in P. Siple (Ed.), Understanding language through sign language research. Academic Press: New York p, 209)

"Many creoles have a Portuguese lexical base, and there are theories that assert that all creoles are relexified versions of one Portuguese protocreole; such a "monogenesis" theory would account for the fact that creoles all over the world are so similar grammatically. If, as I shall try to show, ASL behaves like a creole, even though it has had no contact with spoken Portuguese, that theory will thereby be weakened. Perhaps one reason why ASL looks so much like a creole is expressed in the speculation voiced by Woodward that present-day ASL resulted from a creolization process between indigenous American Sign Language and the French Sign Language that was brought over by Gallaudet in the early 1800's. However, that was 150 years ago, and we will, in a later section, still want to explain why ASL still looks like a creole." (Fisher SD1978) Sign Language and Creoles. in P. Siple (Ed.), Understanding language through sign language research. Academic Press: New York p. 315)

"Craig (1971) lists nine characteristics of English-based creole syntaxes. Every one is true of the syntax of ASL. This parallel holds not only for those features that are notable for their absence, such as the lack of case or sex markings in pronouns, but also the more positive aspects of the syntax as well. " (Fisher SD1978) Sign Language and Creoles. in P. Siple (Ed.), Understanding language through sign language research. Academic Press: New York p. 324)

"Sometimes the second repetition will be a versio that has slid in one direction or the other along the decreolizing continuum, and thus may have a sociolinguistic rather than a processing basis, but a tremendous amount of identical repetition goes on in both HCE and ASL." (Fisher SD1978) Sign Language and Creoles. in P. Siple (Ed.), Understanding language through sign language research. Academic Press: New York p. 325) [note: conditions characterized by developmental delay such as autism feature verbal and behavioral repetition]

"If children are the primary agents in the process of creolization, then they will create the kind of grammatical devices for which they are cognitively ready. For example, Slobin (1973) suggests that children's first tendency in the expression and interpretation of grammatical relations is to rely on word order. A second example, not directly discussed by Slobin but widespread in the literature, is young children's sensitivity to intonation. Over and over again in creole studies, and in ASL as well, we find nonsegmental markers for grammatical forms, such as the conditional and relative clauses discussed previously." (Fisher SD1978) Sign Language and Creoles. in P. Siple (Ed.), Understanding language through sign language research. Academic Press: New York p. 328)

"ASL shares many of the social determinants of creoles; it also shares many similar means of grammatical expression. I have shown in this chapter that this is no accident; the process of creating a creole out of a pidgin is common to both situations. The very fact that the burdan of creolization is on children who have characteristic learning strategies can largely provide explanation for this phenomena on one level." (Fisher SD1978) Sign Language and Creoles. in P. Siple (Ed.), Understanding language through sign language research. Academic Press: New York p. 329-30)

"In Chapter 2 we presented a model for the internal structure of symbols at these early stages, arguing that vocal and gestural symbols are cognitively equivalent in terms of the subjective vehicle-referent relationship. Our findings support that analysis. At this point in development, the only difference between the two domains is in the modality of expression. Indeed, we see no evidence to suggest that a 13-month-old is in any way biased toward the development of vocal language as opposed to gestural language. Evidence concerning the acquisition of American Sign Language as a native language (e.g., Newport and Ashbrook, 1977) suggests that deaf children acquire their manual-visual code just as rapidly as hearing children acquire speech. Furthermore, the semantic relations expressed in ASL develop in the same sequence that has been reported for hearing children. Our findings support the view that the human symbol-using system is extraordinarily plastic, and relatively modality free. This does not mean that we have no special preparations, not available in other species, for processing information in the acoustic-articulatory modality. However, at the early stages the "cognitive" organization underlying symbol use in gesture and in speech appears to be the same. Our children are biased towards the acquisition of "culture." The capacity for language is only one part of that preparation." (Bates, E. , et al. (1979) On the evolution and development of symbols. Academic Press, New York p. 177)

"The first difference is merely terminological: In Peircian terms "signs" comprise the larger class, of which "symbols" are a subclass of signs involving arbitrary and conventional sign-referent relations. For Piaget, the words "symbol" and "symbolic function" refer to the larger class, while "signs" are defined as the subclass of symbol relations that are arbitrary and conventional. In other words, the use of the two terms "sign" and "symbol" is reversed between Piaget and Peirce. " (Bates, E. , et al. (1979) On the evolution and development of symbols. Academic Press, New York p. 64)

"Contrasting the Herculean task of synthesizing (creating) sytax from words spoken alone, the cognitive act of focusing on part of the manual geture to stand for part of the pattern does not seem difficult. A manual-brachial gesture understood as representing a raptor seizing prey could be taken, in proper context, to stand for the raptor, or the prey, or the act of catching. Taking apart the manual gesture by focusing on the active hand in one situation, on the inactive target or object hand in the another, and in still another on the action itself, would have resulted in an explosive multiplication of the the lexicon of gestural words, and because of the syntactic pattern in the gesture, the visible words in it would already be effectively divided into nouns and verbs. This brain-eye-limb activity, as was noted above, could have been equally as effective as speech in providing a selective factor for the rapid increase in human brain size and complexity in the last two million years. The social advantages such communication afforded would have contributed greately to fitness of the population." (Armstrong DF, Stokoe WC, Wilcox SE (1995) Gesture and the Nature of Language. Cambridge Univ. Press: Cambridge pp. 185-186

"As early as the first day of life, the numan neonate moves in precise and sustained segments of movement that are synchronous with the articulated structure of adult speech. These observations suggest a view of development of the infant as a participant at the outset in multiple forms of interactional organization, rather than as an isolate. ... In contrast, microanalysis of pathological behavior -- for instance, that of subjects with aphaic, autistic, and schizophrenic conditions -- reveals marked self-asychronies. Delayed auditory feedback also markedly disturbs this self-sychrony. ... For example, as the adult emits the KK of "come," which lasts for 0.07 second, the infant's head moves right very slightly (Rvs), the left elbow extends slightly (Es), the right shoulder retates outward slightly (ROs) the right hip rotates outward fast (ROf), the left hip extends slightly (Es), and the big toe of the left foot aducts (AD). These body parts sustain these directions and speeds of movement together for this 0.07-second interval. This forms a "unit" composed of the sustained relation of these movements of the body. ... This 2-day-old infant displayed segments of movement synchronous with the adult's speech during the entire 89-word sequence. In other words, this is a sustained and precise occurrence. Another 2-day-old infant sustained similarly synchronous movement throughout a series of 125 words of tape-recorded female speech. ... This study reveals a complex interaction system in which the organization of the neonate's motor behavior in entrained by and synchronized with the organized speech behavior of adults in his environment. If the infant, from the beginning, moves in precise, shared rhythm with the organization of the speech structure of his culture, then he participates developmentally through complex, sociobiological entrainment processes in millions of repetitions of linguistic forms long before he later uses them in speaking and communicating. By the time he begins to speak, he may have already laid down within himself the form and structure of the language system of his culture. This would encompass as multiplicity of interlocking aspects: rhythmic and syntactic "hierarchies," suprasegmental features, and paralinguistic nuances, not to mention body motion styles and rhythms. This may provide an empirical basis for a new approach to language acquisition." (Condon, W.S. & Sander, L.W. (1974) Neonate movement is synchronized with adult speech: interactional participation and language acquisition. Science 183: pp. 99-101)

“The notion that man’s first language was primarily gestural, carried on with hand and arm signals rather than vocal sounds, has been supported by a distinguished line of scholars: Condillar (1746), Tylor (1868, 1871), Morgan (1877:35n), Wallace (1881, 1895), Romanes (1988), Wundt (1912), Paget (1944, 1963), and Johannesson (1949, 1950). The gestural theory seems to be the most attractive of the many glottogonic hypotheses advanced so far, and receives support from recent studies of chimpanzees and other primates, such as Gardner and Gardner (1969, 1971), Premack (1970a,b, 1971), and Menzel (1971), as well as from other sources. The fact that this evidence was unavailable to earlier proponents of the gestural theory explains some of the weaknesses in its former formulations.” (Hewes GW (1973) Primate communication and the gestural origins of language. Current Anthropology 14: 5)

“This primary or social interaction seems to derive directly from an older system and, like all animal systems of communication, is restricted to “betweem you and me, here and now.” The secondary communication interaction, speech, is subjects to no such limitations in space and time. ... Though sign languages are onomatopoetic, the signs represent quite arbitrary features of any referent; each Australian sign language, for example, uses quite different signs for familiar animals. Aborigines find signing faster than speaking and more effective at distances, and some groups consider it more elegant than speech. A deaf Aboriginal grows up with access to every aspect of his culture, and joins freely in any conversation. The human facility for mime and its appreciation and our ready grasp of the symbolism in dance, myth, dreams, and art require some explanation. A similar talent is seen in the emergence of natural sign language in every institution for the care of deaf children. These talents would be explicable if speech had evolved through long periods of mime and signing. Natural sign languages are found among the Plains Indians, among all Australian Aborigines, in India, and in many regions around the Mediterranean. They seem to have been studied seriously by only one man, La Mont West, whose conclusions have never been published. He is known to have believed that all of the sign languages had the same syntactic form. If this is so, then it becomes a reasonable evolutionary hypothesis that the deep structure of modern languages is closely related to that of natural sign languages. Perhaps this hypothesis could provide a test of speculations on the evolution of human language.” (McBride, G (1973) Comments on ... Primate communication and the gestural origins of language. Current Anthropology 14: 15)

“Aside from some work on standardized sign languages, such as those of the Plains Indians of North America or the Aborigines of Australia, not a single reference to studies of gestural communication across language boundaries was encountered by me in the compilation of over 5,000 titles dealing with language origins, gesture language, and related topics (cf. Hewes 1971a). There has been some study of gesture within particular ethnic or cultural groups.” ... It may be that the ability is not only an older innate character of man, but one which is shared, in rudimentary form at least, with the Pongidae. Manual communication may thus come closer to representing the deep cognitive structure on which not only language but all of our intellectual and technological achievements rest. ... The earlier scripts are mostly sets of little pictures of tools, animals, plants, etc., but it is worth noting that in at least two of them, Egyptian hieroglyphs and Chinese writing in its most ancient form, there are numerous representations of hand and arm gestures, often holding or wielding tools or weapons (cf. Wieger 1964 for Chinese examples).” (Hewes GW (1973) Primate communication and the gestural origins of language. Current Anthropology 14: 11)

“Recent hunting peoples present dances consisting of remarkably accurate imitations of the movements of animals, and animal mimicry is also employed in narration of hunting expliots. “Animal dances” are a staple of ethnographic dance literature, and some Upper Paleolithic paintings seem to represent such mimicry. If such animal mimicry, not necessily in the form of standardized dances, goes farther back in the past, it would have provided a kind of feedback from themmotor habits of other species which would have formed a gestural or mimed domain of animal “names,” a kind of motor onomatopoeia. If, as some early prehistoric sites indicate, osteodontokeratic remnants from hunting or scavenging were available to the early hominids, these could have served as props or costume elements for animal reenactments, in which vocal imitation would have added verisimiltude, provided the neural mechanisms for its production were sufficiently evolved.” (Hewes GW (1973) Primate communication and the gestural origins of language. Current Anthropology 14: 8)

“The Gardners and Fouts noted that Washoe learned signs which involved touching parts of her own body faster than signs traced in the air, possibly because of the tactile reinforcement from the skin touched. ... The peculiarly human association of right-handedness and left-hemisphere dominance for both language skills and precise manual manipulations could well be the outcome of a long selective pressure for the clear separation of the precision grip from the power grip, combined with manual-gesture language exhibiting a similar (and related) asymmetry. ... The manual-gesture language model for glottogenesis has the virtue of following the line of least biological resistence, in that it demands no changes -- at least for a very long period -- in neural of buccolaryngeal anatomy or function, other than in the direction of greater precision of control. Other glottogonic theories are vulnerable on this point, since the movement from a language-less hominid to a speaking one is much more difficult to understand than the movement from a gesture language, with cerebral lateralization already in being, to a vocal transformation. Jakobson (1964, 1967) has observed that noises, apart from speech sounds, still have a low communicative value, a fact first clearly realized in the era of radio drama with sound effects. .... Fortunately, we may turn to the mouth-gesture hypothesis, first elaborated by Paget (1963 and many previous publications) and Johannesson (1950, also with numerous earlier publications) and first suggested by Wallace (1881, 1895), for a way in which vocal sounds could have come to be systematically linked with elements of a manual-gesture language. These authors believed that lips, mouth, and tongue roughly “imitate” hand and sometimes other body-part movements, particularly when the latter are engaged in communicative or manipulative activity. This notion is unlike the “bow-wow” or onomatopoeic theory in that the sounds produced by mouth gesture and accompanying vocalization do not bear any acoustic resemblance to the manual signs or their external referents (if acoustic similarity were even possible). With the interjectional of “yo-he-ho” theory it shares only the idea that vocalization may accompany strong emotion or physical exertion. Because of their articulate character, sounds produced in mouth gesture would not closely resemble normal primate calls. Some could be clicks, which are audible without outflow of air from the lungs, and which some linguists claim are archaic (Stopa 1968).” (Hewes GW (1973) Primate communication and the gestural origins of language. Current Anthropology 14: 9-10)


“Krantz’s paper does, however, contain the germ of a much more general and useful idea, namely that there may have been a definite stage in individual brain development, correlated no doubt with brain size, but not necessarily at all closely, at which symbolic thought and speech became possible, and that this stage has receded, in the course of evolution, from the age of puberty or even later to some 13 years before puberty. ... There is, however, one feature of Krantz’z more mechanistic approach that may have a highly significant psychological correlate. If indeed the age of onset of speech in the individual has receded, pari passu with his brain size and development, from near the age of puberty to that on infancy, this might be related to the almost simultaneous onset in the modern human infant of symbolic speech and thought, on the one hand, and the symbolic rehearsal of sexual development, on the other.” (Mourant AE (1973) The evolution of brain size, speech, and psychosexual development. Current Anthropology 14: 30)

“Although it is often stated that man is the only primate that can talk, it is rarely noted that he is also the only one that can sing. Since singing is a simpler system than speech, with only pitch as a distinguishing feature, I suggest that he could sing long before he could talk and that singing was in fact a prerequisite to speech and hence language. Marler (1970a) has used the terms call and song to distinguish innate and learned signals in birds, and while the alarm or danger signal is usually a call, the territorial or mating signal is most frequently a song and is also more often uttered with non environmental stimulus. The learned nature of the territorial/mating song had resulted in more rapid evolution and in the evolution of bird dialects, which can be isolating mechanisms (Nottebohm 1970). Birds can also recognize individuals by vocal signals, and Thorpe (1968) has stated that some nesting birds can recognize their own family in a group of 2,000; this seems to imply an open semantic system. Haldane (1955) suggested that naming of persons and objects was the function of human vocalization that led to the development of language and symboling. Thus, it would seem that songs as group or personal names may have been the function of human vocalization that resulted in the opening of the call system. ... Much of primate vocalization occurs during territorial displays or encounters, and Rowell and Hinde (1962) do suggest that there may be rhesus dialects that are learned.” (Livingstone, FB (1973) Did the australopithecines sing? Current Anthropology 14: 25)

“Adaptation to this learned, open signal system of territorial songs preadapted the hominids to both speech and symboling. ... However, terrestrial primates that inhabit the savanna do seem to communicate more by gesture than their jungle counterparts (Altmann 1967), so early man probably had many gestures.” (Livingstone, FB (1973) Did the australopithecines sing? Current Anthropology 14: 26)

“My original “mechanistic approach” to brain size and language should be somewhat modified. I had earlier assumed that symbolic thoughts and their vocal expression could be equated. Now it appears that the two phenomena are separable to some degree, in that phonetic speech may be a late development, whereas in ealier times symbols were communicated, but less efficiently.” (Krantz, G. S. (1973) Comments (on The evolution of brain size, speech, and psychosexual development by A.E. Mourant) Current Anthropology 14 (1-2): 31)

"A more likely alternative is that females did more and more direct initiation of sexual activity --- by overtly soliciting intercourse and by nonverbally signaling receptivity (Figure 7:8). Morphological changes were replaced with other forms of communication where females through degree of physical spacing and type of gesture, facial expression, eye contact, posture, vocalization, and other nonverbal behavior signaled to males that they were willing --- or unwilling --- to engage in sexual intercourse. The loss of estrus then can mean that a female can initiate sex with males at any time. But it can also mean that she may choose not to mate, even when her hormones are such that she could become pregnant." (Tanner, Nancy M. (1981) On Becoming Human: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge p. 154)

“For example, the articulators of speech (the tongue, lips, jaw) can move quite rapidly, producing easily perceived distinctions on the order of every 50-200 milliseconds. In contrast, the major articulators for sign (the hands) move relatively slowly such that the duration of an isolated sign is about 1,000 milliseconds; the duration of an average spoken word is more like 500 milliseconds. If language processing in real time has equal timing constraints for spoken and signed languages, then there is a strong pressure for signed languages to express more distinctions simulatneously. The articulatory pressures seem to work in concert with the differing capacities of the visual and auditory systems expressing simultaneous versus sequential information. This is, the visual system is sell suited for simultaneously perceiving a large amount of information, whereas the auditory system seems particularly adept at perceiving fast temporal distinctions. Thus both sign and speech have exploited the advantages of their respective modalities.” (The confluence of space and language in signed languages. (1996) Emmorey K. in Language and Space by Bloom P, Peterson MA, Nadel L, Garrett MF (eds.) pp. 173)

“Although my interests lie in the character of the preverbal conceptual system rather than of language itself, the preverbal system forms the foundation on which language rests, and it constrains what is learnable. I shall argue that preverbal conceptual representation is largely spatial in nature and that the relationship between space and language is therefore far-reaching and pervasive. It is not just that spatial terms tell us something about spatial meanings, or that spatial meanings place constraints on spatial terms. It is that many of the most basic meanings that language expresses--both semantic and syntactic--are based on spatial representations. Such a point of view will hardly be news to cognitive linguists such as Ronald Langacker or Leonard Talmy. What I hope to contribute are a few suggestions as to why language should be so structured. I will suggest that language is structured in spatially relevant ways because the meaning system of the preverbal language learner is spatially structured.” (Preverbal Prepresentation and Language (1996) Bierwisch, M. in Language and Space by Bloom P, Peterson MA, Nadel L, Garrett MF (eds.) pp. 365)

[citations removed] “With the explosion over the last decade of research on infant perception, the evidence for prelinguistic spatial concepts has become steadily more impressive. Challenging Piaget’s emphasis on the cirital role of action in the construction of spatial concepts, studies show that even very young infants are sensitive to many spatial and other physical properties of their environment. For example, habituation studies of infant perception have established that within the first few days or months of life, infants can distinguish between scenes and categorize them on the basis of spatial information such as above-below....and different orientations of an object. Studies using the related technique of time spent looking at possible versus impossible events show that by a few months of age infants also recognizes that objects continue to exist must follow a continuous trajectory and cannot pass through one another, and that objects deposited in midair will fall.” (Learning how to structure space for language: a crosslinguistic perspective (1996) Bowerman, M. in Language and Space by Bloom P, Peterson MA, Nadel L, Garrett MF (eds.) pp. 388)

"Social and physical context also affect food from another chimpanzee, in which case it has been referred to as "begging." Alternatively, it may evoke a tactile social response that we would describe as "conforting"; in the latter instance the outstretched hand has been described as indicating a request fo "reassurance" (Goodall, 1972). Among the transitional population it is reasonable to suppose that a wide repetoire of nonverbal communicatory elements, including context, was used; selection would be for a communication system in which a more complex brain made it possible for various in-context combinations of body movements plus some vocal components to convey more complicated social and environmental information than could the ancestral population. It is therefore possible that some of the requisite mental abilities for the later development of speech as we know it were already evolving at the time of the transitional hominids." (Tanner, Nancy M. (1981) On Becoming Human: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge p. 156)

"The use of quite complex nonverbal communication "about something" in highly social settings has been illustrated by laboratory observations of sexual interaction among three pygmy chimpanzees (Savage-Rumbaugh et al., 1977). Eye contact and facial expression are used to indicate interest in sexual engagement. Further, many body movements and gestures precede copulation. Pygmy chimpanzees use a wide variety of positions for copulation, and some mutual agreement as to position must be reached if they are to actually engage in sex. Many of their movements and nearly all the gestures observed by these pygmy chimpanzees prior to intercourse seem to concern copulatory position (Figure 6:5). Especially interesting is the fact that the movements and gestures used in these sociosexual contexts range from very explicit ones, such as one animal trying to turn the other around or the other actually moving to her preferred position, to purely iconic gestures in which a desired or agreed on position is simply indicated gesturally. Here then, in these sociosexual contexts, an integration of a variety of communicatory modes is exhibited --- eye contact, facial expression, body movement and position, and hand gestures. Included are gestures that are iconic, and that can perhaps be considered "presymbolic" forms of communication. These observations of pygmy chimpanzees; sociosexual communication provide a particularly clear-cut example of the sort of integrated communicatory capacities that, if they existed in the ancestral population, would have provided a firm foundation for the evolution of the human communicatory system." (Tanner, Nancy M. (1981) On Becoming Human: Cambridge University Press, Cambridge p. 122)

"The attitude of the raised arms and the open hand seems to be a storied gesture when we find it in the Magdalenian. But earlier, from the first appearance of Aurignacian markings in the caves, the print of the hand, engraved or outlined as a negative in red or black paint, appears on the cave walls either alone, in groups of hands, or as an element associated with animals, notations, or symbolic forms. The meaning of these hands, often with joints missing so as to seemingly indicate sacrifice or injury, has been one of the more puzzling problems in the repertoire of Upper Paleolithic symbols." (Marshack, A. (1972) The Roots of Civilzation; McGraw Hill: New York p. 325)

"Other predators hunt cooperatively and share food, at least to some extent. Other animals show some foresight in terms of the transportation and caching of food. Many predators other than humans are very efficient and are perfectly capable of making a living hunting large game. While Middle Palaeolithic hominids carred these traits beyond the levels known among other species, it remains to be demonstrated that such behavior would be impossible in the absence of language." (Chase, P. G. (1989) How Different was Middle Palaeolithic Subsistence? in The Human Revolution. (eds. Mellars & Stringer) Princeton Univ. Press. Princeton p. 334)

"Data from congenitally deaf children and adults who are not linguistically proficient in any language (including sign) are consistent with these cases. Examining visual ERPs, Neville found that those deaf indivuduals who lacked a formal language showed no evidence of hemispheric asymmetries for processing linguistic or nonlinguistic information, while those deaf individuals who had acquired a formal language in childhood showed asymmetries for both. Unexpectedly, Neville also found that the acquisition of sign language as a native language in childhood (and is concomitant lateralization to the left hemisphere) is associated with a specialization of the left hemisphere for certain spatial functions, much as the specialization of the left hemisphere for spoken language may be associated with a specialization for temporal functions. Neville's data are additionally important because they demonstrate that what is at issue is not the presence or absence of speech, but knowledge of language---spoken or signed. Recent data on the incidence and character of aphasia in fluent signers support Neville's findings. The pattern or sign language deficits occuring after left-hemisphere damage or sodium amytal injection is quite parallel to those seen with spoken language. These data provide further evidence that the left hemisphere is specialized (in most individuals) for what linguists refer to as "the grammar," regardless of performance modality. What is most relevant here, however, is that current data indicate that when sign language is learned at the appropriate time (in childhood), signers show functional specialization of the hemispheres; but without language, signed or spoken, individuals show an absence of functional asymmetry. (Benson and Zaidel(Curtis)1985: 110, The Dual Brain)

"Is there neurolinguistic evidence for the theoretical linguistic position that human language is innate, biologically unique, and psychologically autonomous--that is, speicial? We may identify linguistic specialness with language specializatin in the left hemisphere and ask whether variations of language form, especially those with different sensory-motor frames (e.g., ordinary speech as against American Sign Language [ASL]), show the same left-hemisphere speicialization. In ASL, expression is gestural and reception is visual, whereas in ordinary speech expression is vocal and reception is auditory. Speech is temporal, and manual signs more visual-spatial. Nonetheless, evidence to date indicates that ordinary speech and sign language have similar left-hemisphere specialization and similar forms of disintegration in aphasia." (Benson and Zaidel (E. Zaidel) 1985: 311, The Dual Brain)

"Both sighted hearing and deaf children can learn sign language; the reason deaf children cannot learn spoken languages with ease is because they receive no auditory input. It is not the language ability that is lacking, since deaf children have intact brains. It is therefore not surprising that deaf signers with damage to the left hemisphere show aphasia for sign language similar to the language breakdown in hearing aphasics. What is equally interesting is that the language impariments of these patients contrast markedly with their relatively intact capacities to process nonlanguage visual-spatial relationships, further inforcing the fact that the left hemisphere has an innate predisposition for language (not speech or the physical ways in which language is expressed). (Benson and Zaidel (Fromkin) 1985: 320, The Dual Brain)

"Smith, Eigl-Eibesfeldt, and others have pointed out that in different cultures throughout the world, the tongue may be protruded as a form of threat. A noted American boxer was photographed giving such a display upon being weighed in. It is of comparative interest that the white-lipped tamarin marmoset, instead of displaying erection as in the case of the squirrel monkey, protrudes the tongue to the level of the forehead, both under conditions of threat and courtship. In a study in which we mapped the brain for genital responses, we found the protrusion of the tongue was elicited along a course close to sites at which excitation induced genital-related manifestations. Morris has commented on the various human gestures of the hand used as expressions and hostility, some of them symbolically representing the genital." (MacLean 1990: 234, The Triune Brain in Evolution)

"Eibl-Eibesfeldt has made a world-wide search for common denominators of human expression in various cultures. He has found one ubiquitous signal that he relates to flirtation among women and men. It consists of an upward jerking movement ofthe eyebrow as the person glances sideways." (MacLean 1990: 235, The Triune Brain in Evolution)

"Quite remarkably, the signers with right-hemisphere damage were not aphasic for sign language. They exhibited fluent, grammatical, virtually error-free signing. ... Importantly, this preserved signing was in the fact of marked deficits the right-hemisphere damaged signers showed in processing nonlanguage spatial relations. Across a range of tests, including drawing, block design, attention to visual space, perception of line orientation, facial recognition, and visual closure, right-lesioned signers showed many of the classic visuaspatial impairments seen in hearing patients with right-hemisphere damage. In contrast, left-lesioned signers showed relatively preserved nonlanguage spatial functioning. The three signers with left-hemispheric damage, however, show clear sign language impairments, as indicated by their results on the sign language adaptation of the BDAE, on tests for processing the structural levels of ASL, and on a linguistic analysis of their signings." (Hammond ed. (H. Poizner author) 1990: 312, Cerebral Control of Speech and Limb Movements)

"In fact, if we survey the whole range of the postural and gestural communication signals of chimpanzees on the one hand and humans on the other, we find striking similarities in many instances. It would apear, then, that man and chimp either have evolved gestures and postures along a most remarkable parallel or that we share with the chimpanzees an ancestor in the dim and very distant past; an ancestor, moreover, who communicated with his kind by means of kissing and embracing, touching and patting and holding hands." (Goodall,J. (1971) In the Shadow of Man. Dell: New York pp. 247-8)

"To reduce these ideas to a very brief statement, I can say that for a long time before the evolutionary emergence of articulate vocal language, the early hominids probably communicated propositionally by means of hand and arm gestures, supplemented both by other nonverbal signs and by primate vocal calls not yet deserving of the term 'speech'. This proposal may seem at first hearing to be a case of creating a theory to fit some startling new experimental facts. However, the idea that articulate speech was preceded by a long phase of gestural language is quite old; by the eighteenth century, this idea had been considerably elaborated by Condillac and others. In the nineteenth century, the gestural hypothesis for the origin of language was favored by Alfred Russel Wallace and by Edward B. Tylor, one of the major figures in the formative period of scientific anthropology, and in the early twentieth century was further supported by Wilhelm Wundt, a comparably impressive figure in the history of psychology." (Menzel ed. (Hewes) 1973: 126, Precultural Primate Behavior)

"Cicourel and Boese (1972a,b), who have worked with deaf childen and sign-language communication, make some pertinent points. They have come to believe that both deaf and hearing children possess a basis for a 'primitive sign system', presumably innate, that is utilized even by hearing children after speech has been fully established. In deaf children in institutions where formal sign language is not taught or even allowed, this capacity leads to the emergence of local institutional sign-language traditions, a fact well known to most specialists in the education on deaf whether they favor or oppose the sign-language method." (Menzel ed. (Hewes) 1973: 129, Precultural Primate Behavior)

"Thus, Cicourel and Boese (1972a, b) describe a socially isolated family of deaf persons in Southern California who had developed an idiocyncratic sign-langage system for their own use." (Menzel ed. (Hewes) 1973: 130, Precultural Primate Behavior)

"Until quite recently, authorities on the education of the deaf believed that it was reasonable to defer sign-language training until kindergarden or first-grade level, leaving the profoundly deaf child essentially without language during the very years when the foundations of language are being built into normal hearing children." (Menzel ed. (Hewes) 1973: 132, Precultural Primate Behavior)

"Fouts (personal communication) relates that he had to concoct a little horror story to get Washoe to make the proper negation gesture. Operating at a level where use of negation only affected sentence construction, Premack seems to have encountered no particular barrier on Sarah's part of learning to say 'no' or 'is not'. (Menzel ed. (Hewes) 1973: 140, Precultural Primate Behavior)

"It has long been known that Braille may be more easily read by the left hand (for review, see Harris, 1980b). (Bradshaw & Nettleton 1983: 106, Human Cerebral Asymmetry)

"A number of studies suggest reduced asymmetries for written letters and words in the congenitally deaf )e.g. McKeever, Hoemann, Florian, & Van Deventer, 1976; Manning, Goble, Markman, & La Breche, 1977; Poizner & Lane, 1979; Scholes & Fischler, 1979). Other studies have found a LVF (right hemisphere) superiority when such people process the manual signs used by the deaf (e.g., McKeever et al., 1976; Poizner & Lane, 1979; Ross, Pergament, & Anisfield, 1979). As Cutting (1980) points out, such signs have a complex nature and origin and in many cases are quite different from and in no way parasitic upon the spoken languages around them. They all have a considerable spatial component and employ an essentially simultaneous rather than a sequential (as in speech) mode of display. This factor could possibly account for the apparent right hemisphere involvement in signing. In another carefully controlled study, however, Virostek and Cutting (1979) found tht the "true" congental deaf (i.e., those born of deaf parents, unlike those employed in the other studies) give RVF superiorities for handshapes that are designated alphabetical and a LVF superiority for illegal signs, hearing signers giving a LVF superiority for both types of sign. The right hemisphere spatial contribution apparently does not extend to alphabetic signs in the truly congenitally deaf. They conclude that auditory experience is unnecessary for the normal development of left hemisphere language specialization, that lateral specialization for language is generally similar for deaf native signers and nondeaf native speakers of oral language, and that other studies are to be criticized for poor control of stimuli, stimulus counterbalancing, and choice of subjects." (Bradshaw & Nettleton 1983: 156, Human Cerebral Asymmetry)

"...the eventual proficiency of sign language by deaf people---their first language---is greater the younger one is when exposed to that language (e.g., Newport, 1990" (Bjorklund, D.F. (1997) The role of immaturity inhuman development. Psychological Bulletin 122(2): 161)

"Previous studies of deaf children of hearing parents have shown that these children spontaneously use gestural symbols to communicate even if they are not exposed to a conventional sign language model. (Fant, 1972; Lenneberg, 1964; Moores, 1974; Tervoort, 1961). These gestures are conventionally referred to as "home sign." Most of our work has focussed particularly on the structural apects of deaf children's home sign." (Goldin-Meadow, S. & Mylander, C. (1991) Levels of Structure in a Communication System Developed without a Language Model in Brain Maturation and Cognitive Development: Comparative and Cross-cultural Perspectives (K.L. Gibson & A.C. Peterson, ed.) DeGruyter, N.Y. pp. 317)

"The foregoing chapters have surveyed the three major areas of language development: development in the individual, development of new languages, and original development of language. Parsimony alone would suggest that these developmental processes might have much in common with one another, and the common pattern that emerges has an independent support that no other linguistic theory that I know of could claim: it is in accord with all we have so far learned about evolutionary processes and it is in accord with all we have so far learned about how processes in the brain determine the behavior of animate creatures." (Bickerton, D (1981) Roots of Language. Karoma Publishers: Ann Arbor. p.194)


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