Language-relevant Visiting Speaker: Thom Scott-Phillips

Mar 28, 2016 at | IRCS Conference Room

Gareth Robert's social and cultural evolution working group is hosting a visiting speaker on 28 March, Thom Scott-Phillips  whose talk may be of interest to many.  The title and abstract are below.

The talk will take place in the IRCS Conference Room at the slightly unusual time of 10am on a Monday morning (we’re taking advantage of his passing through the US)..

The evolutionary origins of human communication and language

Linguistic communication is arguably humanity's most distinctive characteristic. Why are we the only species that communicates in this way? In this talk, based upon my recent book*, I will argue that the foundational difference between humans and other species is not strictly language, but rather about the type of communication used. Only humans communicate in a way that involves cognitively rich mechanisms of metapsychology, and the difference between this and the communication of other species is a difference of kind, not of degree. Languages are, in turn, conventions that are created and which evolve in order to enhance the expressive potential of this distinctly human means of communicating. To make these arguments, I will systematically survey experimental findings on the communication of children and non-human primates.

Speaking Our Minds, Palgrave Macmillan (see also e.g. Scott-Phillips, 2015, Non-human primate communication, pragmatics, and the origins of language. Current Anthropology, 56(1), 56-80)