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Evolutionary linguistics/Bibliography

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A list of key readings about Evolutionary linguistics.
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  • Christiansen MH, Kirby S. (editors/authors) (2003) Language evolution. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199244847. | 21 authors, 17 chapters, 395 pages. | Google Books preview.
    • TOC: Language evolution: the hardest problem in science? / Morten H. Christiansen and Simon Kirby -- Language as an adaptation to the cognitive niche / Steven Pinker -- The language mosaic and its evolution / James R. Hurford -- What can the field of linguistics tell us about the origins of language? / Frederick J. Newmeyer -- Symbol and structure : a comprehensive framework for language evolution / Derek Bickerton -- On the different origins of symbols and grammar / Michael Tomasello -- Universal grammar and semiotic constraints / Terrence W. Deacon -- The archaeological evidence of language origins : states of art / Iain Davidson -- What are the uniquely human components of the language faculty? / Marc D. Hauser and W. Tecumseh Fitch -- The evolving mirror system : a neural basis for language readiness / Michael A. Arbib -- From hand to mouth : the gestural origins of language / Michael C. Corballis -- The origin and subsequent evolution of language / Robin I.M. Dunbar -- Launching language : the gestural origin of discrete infinity / Michael Studdert-Kennedy and Louis Goldstein -- Motor control, speech, and the evolution of human language / Philip Lieberman --From language learning to language evolution / Simon Kirby and Morten H. Christiansen -- Grammatical assimilation / Ted Briscoe -- Language, learning and evolution / Natalia L. Komarova and Martin A. Nowak.
    • Quote from free full-text review of the book in PLoS Biology: "Linguists, cognitive scientists, behavioural ecologists, and theoretical biologists all offer their view on the origin of human language and, refreshingly, do not shy from pointing out the real or assumed weaknesses of the other approaches."

Chapters in books

Articles in journals

"Without denying the enormous importance of the discovery of mirror neurons, we highlight the limits of their explanatory power for understanding language and communication."

  • Atkinson QD, Meade A, Venditti C, Greenhill SJ, Pagel M. (2008) Languages evolve in punctuational bursts. Science 319:588. PMID 18239118.
    • Linguists speculate that human languages often evolve in rapid or punctuational bursts, sometimes associated with their emergence from other languages, but this phenomenon has never been demonstrated. We used vocabulary data from three of the world's major language groups-Bantu, Indo-European, and Austronesian-to show that 10 to 33% of the overall vocabulary differences among these languages arose from rapid bursts of change associated with language-splitting events. Our findings identify a general tendency for increased rates of linguistic evolution in fledgling languages, perhaps arising from a linguistic founder effect or a desire to establish a distinct social identity.
  • Boeckx C, Longa VM. (2011) Lenneberg’s Views on Language Development and Evolution and Their Relevance for Modern Biolinguistics. Biolinguistics 5(3):254-273.
    • Lenneberg provided the first and to this day one of the clearest examples of what Boeckx & Grohmann (2007) dubbed “biolinguistics in the strong sense”, a body of work of the highest interdisciplinary quality… his intention was to “reinstate the concept of the biological basis of language capacities” (p. viii). He developed that aim by approaching language as a species-specific mental organ with non-trivial biological properties, which grows in the mind/brain of the child in the same way that (other) biological organs grow, showing that the child’s path to language displays the hallmark of biological growth. Lenneberg’s (1967) book Biological Foundations of Language is today regarded as a classic…. Our aim is to show that Lenneberg’s book has more merits than those usually attributed to it. He did not merely call for an explicitly biological approach to the study of human language at a crucial time in the development of cognitive science; he did so with really modern, indeed prescient, ideas and with ‘biological’ intuitions that the new biology is beginning to make standard.