Evolution of speech-specific cognitive adaptations

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This paper argues that an evolutionary perspective is natural when investigating cognitive adaptations related to language. This is because there appears to be correspondence between traits that linguists consider interesting and traits that have undergone selective pressure related to language. The paper briefly reviews theoretical results that shed light on what kind of adaptations we can expect to have evolved and then reviews concrete work related to the evolution of adaptations for combinatorial speech. It turns out that there is as yet no strong direct evidence for cognitive traits that have undergone selection related to speech, but there is indirect evidence that indicates selection. However, the traits that may have undergone selection are expected to be continuously variable ones, rather than the discrete ones that linguists have focused on traditionally.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1505
Number of pages4
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Event10th International Conference on the Evolution of Language, EVOLANG X - Vienna, Austria
Duration: 14 Apr 201417 Apr 2014


  • evolution of speech
  • combinatorial structure
  • language evolution
  • biology-culture co-evolution
  • language-specific selection


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