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date: 26 February 2020

(p. xi) Preface and acknowledgements

(p. xi) Preface and acknowledgements

This volume represents a snapshot of current knowledge and theories in the field of language evolution, and is written from the widely differing perspectives of the numerous academic disciplines that contribute to this fascinating and tantalizing field of study. The editors invited many dozens of the most eminent academics to contribute; a number, sadly, felt unable to take the time to write for a general audience, but 60 scientists at the top of their game did accept the invitation. To these colleagues, we extend a heartfelt thanks for all your efforts, including the time spent drafting and re‐drafting chapters to our exacting standards. It is your life's work that has helped to make this volume a success, and we are grateful to you for sharing this research with the general reader.

What has resulted from these endeavours is a collection which, we hope, will be a standard work of reference for years to come. Language evolution is, however, a discipline that is moving extremely quickly. Even as we write, many new discoveries and developments are being reported and published. Of course, some of these apparent breakthroughs will prove ephemeral or illusory, but others will doubtless change the field. We have tried to avoid endorsing too soon any results which are not yet proven, but at the same time we have attempted to be—and to encourage our contributors to be—as up to date as possible.

The target audience for this volume comprises scholars and students of all the disciplines that contribute pieces of the language evolution puzzle: linguists, biologists, archaeologists, ethologists, neuroscientists, anthropologists, psychologists, geneticists, palaeontologists, and more. We have encouraged contributors to write with this general audience in mind as much as possible, and we hope that the results will be widely accessible to readers of all backgrounds.

We would like to extend a special massive thanks to Laura Bailey, a PhD student at Newcastle University, England, for her painstaking work in compiling and checking the list of references and finalizing the subject index. We probably drove her almost insane, but she completed her task on time and without complaint. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Newcastle, both in funding Laura's work and in allowing Maggie Tallerman leave from teaching for one semester in order to complete this volume. We also thank John Davey at Oxford University Press for his help and support over the long timespan of this project. Finally, we'd like to express our gratitude to our partners, S. J. and John, (p. xii) for their patience and forbearance in the face of our continuing need to work when we should have been taking holidays with them.

Maggie Tallerman, Newcastle, England

Kathleen R. Gibson, Houston, Texas

January 2011