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Origin and Evolution of Languages

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With Serge Cleuziou, Jean-Paul Demoule and Pierre Encrevé


Origin and Evolution of Languages has a strong interdisciplinary flavour designed to highlight the true complexity of the debates in the field. Many of the models and theories conjectured can only receive their validation from a convergence of arguments developed across disciplines. The book underscores this dimension by including contribution from disciplines that have been wary, traditionally, of extending beyond their borders: linguistics (different branches thereof), philosophy, history and prehistory, archaeology, anthropology, genetics, computer-modelling. The presentation is intended to encompass both the agreements and disjunctures characteristic of the field and insisted on laying open propositions that clearly differ from, possibly even enter into contradiction with one another. While several teams of researchers active in the fields of genetics, linguistics, anthropology and archaeology have come up with new proposals in favor of the “New Synthesis,” many competing hypotheses and models continue to be explored in areal linguistics, language contact, wave-like diffusion. On the anthropological scene, criticisms of the monogenetic model have set up new debates and counter-arguments. Approaching the issue of the origin and evolution of human languages within a Darwinian paradigm remains problematic. On the archaeological scene, not all reconstructions are proving compatible with current models for the circulation of techniques, myths and cultures. On the linguistic scene, raising again the issue of the origin / evolution of humankind and of languages in an evolutionary, cognitive, social and cultural perspective or in terms of generational transmission and acquisition, may induce a reconsideration of linguistic theories in search of universals as well as most theories of change and variation. All contributors are world-renowned experts in their domain.

Published: May 1, 2008

Book Contributors

Section Chapter Authors
Origins and evolution of languages: retrospectives and 1 perspectives Bernard Laks, Jean-Paul Demoule, Serge Cleuziou, Pierre Encrevé
Genetic evolution and the evolution of languages Luigi Cavalli-Sforza
Languages, genes, and prehistory, with special reference to Europe Bernard Comrie
Poor design features in language as clues to its prehistory Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy
What can we learn about the earliest human language by comparing languages known today? Lyle Campbell
Conceptualization, communication, and the origins of grammar Frederick Newmeyer
The origin of language as a product of the evolution of modern cognition Gilles Fauconnier, Mark Turner
Comparativism: from genealogy to genetics Bernard Laks
Simulating the expansion of farming and the differentiation of European languages Domenico Parisi, Francesco Antinucci, Francesco Natale, Federico Cecconi
Colin Renfrew’s hypothesis on the Near-Eastern origin of the original Indo-European people: an evaluation Jean-Paul Demoule
New perspectives on the origin of languages Merritt Ruhlen
Linguistic history and computational cladistics Don Ringe, Teddy Warnow
What do creoles and pidgins tell us about the evolution of language? Salikoko Mufwene
Does history begin before Sumer? Serge Cleuziou
Index of Authors Bernard Laks, Jean-Paul Demoule, Serge Cleuziou, Pierre Encrevé
Index of Languages Bernard Laks, Jean-Paul Demoule, Serge Cleuziou, Pierre Encrevé
Index of Subjects Bernard Laks, Jean-Paul Demoule, Serge Cleuziou, Pierre Encrevé


'Parce qu’il est sans doute un exemple de positionnement stratégique au sein d’une problématique éminemment discutable et discutée, je ne peux que recommander la lecture de cet ouvrage aussi bien aux étudiants et aux universitaires qu’à ceux qui souhaitent à la fois avoir un peu d’information de première main et prendre un peu de distance par rapport à ce qui est dit.'
Robert Nicolaï, Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis, Natures Sciences Sociétés 18 (2010)