The evolution of language

Škiljaica, Andreja (2014) The evolution of language. Bachelor's thesis, Faculty of Science > Department of Biology.

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Abstract

Homo sapiens is the only species known to have the faculty of language, whether spoken or signed, and that fact has baffled the academic world throughout history. The earliest language hypotheses were of philosophical nature, revolving around its linguistic aspects – phonology, phonetics, syntax and semantics. The theories of language origin were constrained by religious views until the twentieth century, when the study of language turned towards biology. Studies of non-human primate behaviour and mental abilities, clinical studies of language impairments and, lately, the usage of noninvasive imaging methods (PET and fMRI) give important insights into language evolution. Imaging studies help to determine activity of cortical regions in the left brain hemisphere during language production and processing. Basal ganglia and cerebellum are also important for speech production. FOXP2 gene codes for a transcription factor involved in embryological development of basal ganglia and normal functioning of cortico-basal neural circuits. The key mutations separating the human FOXP2 lineage from that of its closest relatives occured in the last 100 000 years. The reconstructed vocal tract and the ability of vocal imitation are necessary for speech production. These results help to shape the two most prominent theories of language origin – the vocal and the gestural model. While the idea that language evolved from primal vocalisations seems intuitive, due to results of brain studies and especially the discovery of the mirror system in the primate brain, the general opinion is becoming more inclined towards the gestural model.

Item Type: Thesis (Bachelor's thesis)
Supervisor: Hranilović, Dubravka
Date: 2014
Number of Pages: 14
Subjects: NATURAL SCIENCES > Biology
Divisions: Faculty of Science > Department of Biology
Depositing User: Silvana Šehić
Date Deposited: 21 Nov 2014 11:19
Last Modified: 21 Nov 2014 11:19
URI: http://digre.pmf.unizg.hr/id/eprint/3339

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