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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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Speech-gesture links in the ontogeny and phylogeny of gestural communication

Speech-gesture links in the ontogeny and phylogeny of gestural communication

(p.160) 9 Speech-gesture links in the ontogeny and phylogeny of gestural communication
The Evolutionary Emergence of Language

Jacques Vauclair

Hélène Cochet

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores the ontogeny and phylogeny of gestural communication, looking at both human and non-human primates. The central claim is that a comparative approach can provide answers to some of our questions concerning the evolutionary origin of language, and support the hypothesis that the earliest phylogenetic precursors of human language were communicative gestures. The chapter is organized as follows. Section 9.2 examines the role played by communicative gestures in language development, adopting both ontogenetic and phylogenetic perspectives. Section 9.3 reviews empirical data dealing with the question of hand preference associated with gestural communication. Finally, Section 9.4 provides an overview of the neuroimaging literature pertaining to the left-hemisphere specialization for language. These studies suggest that the similarity of human and nonhuman primates in terms of brain specialization hints at a shared evolutionary history for gesturing and language, providing convincing arguments in favour of the gestural hypothesis of language origin.

Keywords:   communicative gestures, language evolution, primates, language development, hand preference, neuroimaging

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