LSA 123: Prehistory of language

Jean-Marie Hombert | session 1 | MW 10:30 – 12:15, 106 Moffitt Hall

The purpose of this course is to investigate the transition from Language to languages. The communication system of our ancestors changed drastically between the emergence of Homo sapiens and the upper limit that traditional historical linguistics can reach (less than 10,000 BP).

Contrary to theoretical models arguing for an abrupt emergence of language, we will propose a much more gradual process of emergence. Within the context of patchy and progressive mosaic evolution of "Anatomically Modern Man" and "Culturally Modern Man", we will introduce the notion of "Linguistically Modern Man".

The different stages in the evolution of our communication system are very hard to illustrate from linguistic data alone. However, we will explore the hypothesis that the complexification of our communication system can be understood from our ancestors' behaviors inferred from archaeological findings.

Reading: Selected materials available online.

Areas of linguistics: Areal and historical linguistics

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