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Cognitive and social aspects of language origins

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Abstract

Theorists of the origins of language seem to assume that the only function of language is communication. Or that everything that language is and does can be explained as if it were simply an advanced form of communication. In fact, though, virtually all languages are far more complex than they need to be for one-to-one communication. This paper attempts to answer the question as to why that should be. It argues that the answer lies in the evolution of narrative, that is, story-telling, legend, and myth, as culturally important means of expression. It demonstrates that the evolution of narrative, and especially of myth, requires linguistic complexity, and in particular, recursion. It further argues that language coevolved with mythology in symbolic frameworks which extended, to the limits of cognition, the capacity for verbal expression.The focus is on just one sentence, which describes a habitually continuous action, within an interrogative sentence, within an imperative sentence, within another imperative sentence, within an indicative sentence, within a /Xam myth or fable in which animals act as people, but in culturally meaningful and stylized form.

References

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