Vocal Development as a Guide to Modeling the Evolution of Language


Modeling of evolution and development of language has principally utilized mature units of spoken language, phonemes and words, as both targets and inputs. This approach cannot address the earliest phases of development because young infants are unable to produce such language features. We argue that units of early vocal development-protophones and their primitive illocutionary/perlocutionary forces-should be targeted in evolutionary modeling because they suggest likely units of hominin vocalization/communication shortly after the split from the chimpanzee/bonobo lineage, and because early development of spontaneous vocal capability is a logically necessary step toward vocal language, a root capability without which other crucial steps toward vocal language capability are impossible. Modeling of language evolution/development must account for dynamic change in early communicative units of form/function across time. We argue for interactive contributions of sender/infants and receiver/caregivers in a feedback loop involving both development and evolution and propose to begin computational modeling at the hominin break from the primate communicative background.

Publication Title

Topics in Cognitive Science