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Rank and Relationships in the Evolution of Spoken Language

John L. Locke
The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Vol. 7, No. 1 (Mar., 2001), pp. 37-50
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2660835
Page Count: 14
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Rank and Relationships in the Evolution of Spoken Language
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Abstract

If evolutionary benefits associated with language were predominantly referential, as many theorists assume, then there must have been a preparatory stage in which an `appetite' for information, not evident in the other primates, developed. To date, no such stage has been demonstrated. The problem dissipates, however, if it is assumed that language emerged from a function more nearly shared with other primates. An obvious candidate is displaying. Here I argue that performative functions associated with oral sound-making provided initial pressures for vocal communication by promoting rank and relationships. These benefits, I suggest, facilitated conflict avoidance and resolution, collaboration, and reciprocal sharing of needed resources. By valuing the performative applications of language, which continue in modern humans, one can more easily derive speech from the social-vocal behaviours of non-human primates, providing greater continuity in accounts of linguistic evolution.

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