Major Language Evolution Papers: #1

Understanding and sharing intentions: The origins of cultural cognition – Tomasello et al (2005)

Who’s it by? It’s by Michael Tomasello and some illustrious associates. Tomasello is a cognitive psychologist with an interest in cognitive development.

What’s it about? It presents a unifying hypothesis for a lot of the recent discoveries in human evolution, primatology and childhood development. Tomasello argues that the ability to read and share intentions is the basis for human cognition, and that we are adapted to this purpose in a way that close relatives like chimpanzees aren’t.

Why should an evolutionary linguist care? Because buried deep in that hypothesis is the assumption that language is part of this cognitive aparatus. Tomasello’s argument therefore offers the biggest contemporary challenge to the Chomskian consensus on language evolution, placing it behind the cognition of shared intentionality in terms of both emergence and importance.

So, thanks to the generosity of Chrissy Cuskley, here is a PDF of her presentation about this paper.

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1 Response to “Major Language Evolution Papers: #1”



  1. 1 Evolang 08 - First Post « Language Evolution Trackback on March 21, 2008 at 9:36 pm

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