Language and Gesture Evolution


In humans, gestural communication is closely intertwined with language: adults perform a variety of manual gestures, head movements and body postures while they are talking, children use gestures before they start to speak, and highly conventionalized sign systems can even replace spoken language. Because of this role of gestures for human com-munication, theories of language evolution often propose a gestural origin of language. In searching for the evolutionary roots of language, a comparative approach is often used to investigate whether any precursors to human language are also present in our closest relatives, the great apes, because of our shared phylogenetic history. Therefore, the aim of this symposium is to present recent progress in the field of language evolution from both a developmental and compa-rative perspective and to discuss the question if and to what extent a comparison with nonhuman primates is suitable to shed light on possible scenarios of language evolution.

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