What’s the difference between animal communication and human language?

How did humans develop the capacity for language?

UWA linguist Daniel Midgley talks the talk with W. Tecumseh Fitch, professor of cognitive biology at the University of Vienna, and author of the new book The Evolution of Language.


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Ever thought about language and why humans do it, but other animals don’t?

At some point, humans acquired the ability to use language, but it’s not exactly clear how we might have gotten there. Some researchers think we might have started by using gestures to communicate first, and then used our voices. Other people think we might have used music — used our voices to make sounds, and then learned to recognise each other.

A recent issue of New Scientist had a big article on language evolution, written by Dr. W. Tecumseh Fitch, who is professor of cognitive biology at the University of Vienna in Austria. He’s also written a book just out this year — The Evolution of Language (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

His New Scientist article is a good summary of what we know about human language and how it evolved. He also goes into some detail about animal communication and its similarities and differences to human language.