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Origins of Human Communication (Jean Nicod Lectures)

4.21 of 5 stars 4.21  ·  rating details  ·  70 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Human communication is grounded in fundamentally cooperative, even shared, intentions. In this original and provocative account of the evolutionary origins of human communication, Michael Tomasello connects the fundamentally cooperative structure of human communication (initially discovered by Paul Grice) to the especially cooperative structure of human (as opposed to othe ...more
Paperback, 408 pages
Published August 13th 2010 by Bradford Book (first published September 1st 2008)
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A very convincing account of how the language might have emerged from a cognitive/functional perspective. The hypothesis is that the spoken language must have developed only after there was some kind of gesture language which combined pointing and iconic gestures. Although other mammals, in particular apes, use gestures to communicate, experiments show that they all lack shared intentionality and "bird-view" perspective on the processes they are involved in. These in turn are prerequisites for r ...more
I estimate that the research represented here might deserve 3 or even 4 stars, but the author has not wrung a very readable text out of the material.

The main idea I've gotten from the first three chapters is that the distinguishing feature of human communication is that we understand cooperation in a way that the beasts do not. The author is at great pains to show that the sounds made by animals which alert their fellows (their "conspecifics," as the text insists on calling them) are reflexive r
John Wylie
Excellent and original book on language in which he designates the sharing of intentions as its central hallmark.
Yasser Mohammad
May 18, 2013 Yasser Mohammad is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
Tomasello in this book is walking the road paved by Wittgenstein, Clark and others who emphasize the social and effective aspect of language use and its dependence on common shared ground.
He uses these ideas to hypothesize about an origin in human language based on ape-like gestural capacities.
The two types of ape gestures: attention-getters and attentional-movements are hypothesized to be the origins of the two types of complete-communication-act human gestures: pointing and iconic gestures.
Simon Lavoie
Result of more than 20 years of comparative experiment in apes and human psychology, this book highlights the cooperative and collaborative roots of human thought and language, in a manner that classical, theoretical sociologists and anthropologists, building and justifiying collective concepts as they were, could only have dreamt of.

A book of the first importance in science and moral reasoning at large.

Wer bereit ist sich mit den Untiefen der Fachsprache auseinanderzusetzen und sich durch einen Wust von Fremdwörtern zu hangeln, dem wird eine ungemein spannende, mit vielen empirischen Beispielen angereicherte und hochplausible theoretische Tiefseefahrt zu den phylogenetischen Ursprüngen der menschlichen Kommunikation und Sprache geboten. Wittgenstein meets Evolutionsbiologie - ein großer Wurf.
A fairly easy read, and nice enough if you keep in mind it's mainly rethoric and not concrete evidence-based arguments all the time.
Sep 09, 2009 Sandra is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
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