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The Evolutionary Emergence of LanguageEvidence and Inference$
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Rudolf Botha and Martin Everaert

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199654840

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199654840.001.0001

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The evolution of semantics: sharing conceptual domains

The evolution of semantics: sharing conceptual domains

(p.139) 8 The evolution of semantics: sharing conceptual domains
The Evolutionary Emergence of Language

Peter Gärdenfors

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that the cultural development of Homo sapiens and their predecessors is highly dependent on the expansion of shared semantic domains. Starting from an analysis of how and when different levels of intersubjectivity develop in children, it identifies several semantic domains necessary for this development, i.e., the emotional, visual (physical), category, goal, action, and event domains. Since these shared domains are clearly established in the development of human children but only to a lesser extent in other species, the chapter concludes that they have generated selective advantages in human evolution. Establishing these domains as communicatively shared has generated selective benefits in terms of the new forms of cooperation they have made possible. Expanding the shared semantic domains is a central component of cultural evolution — maybe the most central. Becoming an expert in an area means establishing new domains of meaning that laypersons in general have no access to. Experts communicate their knowledge through teaching, so that their specialized semantic domains can be shared between generations.

Keywords:   language evolution, cultural development, Homo sapiens, semantic domains, intersubjectivity

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