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The Prehistory of Language$
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Rudolf Botha and Chris Knight

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199545872

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199545872.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 04 December 2021

Cultural niche construction: evolution's cradle of language *

Cultural niche construction: evolution's cradle of language *

(p.99) 6 Cultural niche construction: evolution's cradle of language*
The Prehistory of Language

John Odling‐Smee

Kevin N. Laland

Oxford University Press

Standard evolutionary theory is highly successful, based as it is on solid mathematical foundations and a rich empirical tradition, constantly renewed by exchanges of hypotheses and data among diverse researchers. Yet, despite its successes, it does not provide a satisfactory basis for understanding human evolution. Primarily, this is because standard evolutionary theory's assumptions limit what it can explain. Significantly, it largely neglects the role of niche-construction in evolution. As a result, it has inadvertently erected conceptual barriers that make it difficult to integrate evolutionary biology with several neighboring disciplines, including developmental biology, ecosystem-level ecology, and the human sciences. This chapter describes how niche construction can usefully be regarded as a process which, combined with established evolutionary processes, improves understanding of human evolution. By integrating human niche construction with gene-culture co-evolutionary theory, an evolutionary framework to explore the evolution of language is developed.

Keywords:   evolutionary theory, language development, language capacity, niche construction, evolutionary process

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