Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy).

date: 16 December 2017

Abstract and Keywords

This article discusses the significance of the emergence of language. One of Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry's observations is that, despite their diversity, these transitions have some features in common. In particular, many of the transitions give rise to a new mechanism for the transmission of information. Language, they argue, provides just such a novel mechanism — essentially enabling a system of cultural transmission with unlimited heredity. It is clearly true that language enables the transmission and storage of very complex cultural information. Arguably, it is this aspect of the biological heritage that makes the impact of humans so great, and so unusual. The article argues that human language achieves this by briefly surveying the structural features of language, and the characteristics of language as a biological endowment.

Keywords: language, Maynard Smith, Eörs Szathmáry, transmission, information, humans

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.