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Join the dots: A musical interlude in the evolution of language?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Maggie Tallerman


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This review article examines the major premises concerning the evolution of language offered in Tecumseh Fitch's The Evolution of Language (2010). Various aspects of Fitch's argumentation are disputed, specifically including the idea that language was preceded in evolution by a musical protolanguage stage in which there were no words, but which instead exhibited a prosodic, meaningless ‘bare phonology’. According to Fitch, this putative stage in language evolution also laid the foundations for syntax, providing musical phrases which were subsequently filled by meaningful words. Counterarguments to these ideas are presented, and an alternative, word-based model of protolanguage is defended.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Tallerman M

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Linguistics

Year: 2013

Volume: 49

Issue: 2

Pages: 455-487

Print publication date: 01/02/2013

ISSN (print): 0022-2267

ISSN (electronic): 1469-7742

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S0022226713000017


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