From a bodily-based format of knowledge to symbols. The evolution of human language

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Although ontogeny cannot recapitulate phylogeny, a two-level model of the acquisition of language will be here proposed and its implication for the evolution of the faculty of language will be discussed. It is here proposed that the identification of the cognitive requirements of language during ontogeny could help us in the task of identifying the phylogenetic achievements that concurred, at some point, to the acquisition of language during phylogeny. In this model speaking will be considered as a complex ability that arises in two different steps. The first step of competence widely relies on a bodily-based format of knowledge. The second step relies on more abstract meta-representations and implies high-level socio-cognitive skills. It is hypothesized that in order to reach the second level of language competence, symbolic communication and interaction with a cultural community are needed. Hence, the origins of species-specific human complex language and cognition are in both the brain and culture. Moreover, in this model, data from the embodied language research will be discussed in the light of a usage-based account of language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-61
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Communication
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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