Workshop on Language Evolution
April/19/2024 @ 12:00 - 13:30
Revisiting the origins of meaning
The three core properties of language – meaning, syntax and social interaction – have received considerable comparative research attention in recent years, driven by a desire to advance theories of language evolution. Somewhat surprisingly, progress on the origins of meaning has been least remarkable, after the initial pioneering discoveries of referential signals in primate communication some 50 years ago. Here, I will revisit the problem of animal meaning and reference, first, by taking stock of the current state of the art and, second, by pointing out possible new directions of research. I will discuss new conceptual and methodological tools that are likely to provide progress in our understanding of the evolutionary transition from animal signal meaning to human linguistic meaning.