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The Origins of Meaning

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Table of Contents

PART I MEANING BEFORD COMMUNICATION ; 1. Let's Agree on Terms ; 2. Animals Approach Human Cognition ; 3. A New Kind of Memory Evolves ; 4. Animals Form proto-propositions ; 5. Towards Human Semantics ; PART II COMMUNICATION: WHAT AND WHY? ; 6. Communication by Dyadic Acts ; 7. Going Triadic: Precursors of Reference ; 8. Why Communicate? Squaring With Evolutionary Theory ; 9. Cooperation, Fair Play and Trust in Primates ; 10. Epilogue ; Bibliography ; Index

About the Author

James R. Hurford is Professor of General Linguistics, University of Edinburgh. He is co-editor, with Kathleen Gibson, of OUP's Studies in Language Evolution, co-founder, with Simon Kirby, of the Language Evolution and Computation Research Unit at the University of Edinburgh, and co-founder, with Chris Knight, of the EVOLANG series of international conferences on the evolution of language. His books include The Linguistic Theory of Numerals (CUP, 1975), Language and Number: The Emergence of a Cognitive System (Blackwell, 1987), and Grammar: A Student's Guide (CUP 1994).


very readable and satisfying book...admirably persuasive and thought provoking... Grover Hudson, Linguistlist Has Hurford achieved his goal of describing the evolutionary foundations of language? Yes, elegantly and in accomplished detail. Nature valuable Roy Harris, Times Higher Education Supplement A wonderful read - lucid, informative, and entertaining, while at the same time never talking down to the reader by sacrificing argumentation for the sake of "simplicity". It is likely to be heralded as the major publication dealing with language evolution to date. Frederick J. Newmeyer, University of Washington Hurford's aim is nothing less than to bring language into Darwin's reach. Many attempts to press natural selection into innovative service fail through too analogical an approach failing to mesh with the realities of some other discipline. Hurford's sheer practicality and professional appreciation of modern biology have produced a work of the highest academic seriousness that would without question have delighted Darwin himself. The project can fairly be described as the abolition of the division between linguistics and biology, and has significant broad implications for philosophers and social scientists, as well as more focussed ones for biologists, linguists and anthropologists. Alan Grafen, Professor of Theoretical Biology, University of Oxford To explain the evolution of language, one must explain the evolution of both a system of communication and a system of thought - a way of representing and communicating about the world. In The Origins of Meaning, James Hurford does just this. Writing as a linguist, he clarifies for biologists the complexities that must be explained in an evolutionary account of language, while at the same time illuminating for his colleagues in linguistics the rich communicative and representational abilities of animals - from which we can begin to reconstruct the semantic and pragmatic origins of language. The Origins of Meaning is synthetic, provocative, and intellectually rich. Robert Seyfarth, professor of psychology, University of Pennsylvania, and co-author of Baboon Metaphysics. [a] fascinating examination... Morning Star ...a unique, interdisciplinary story of the development of language as we know it today... Hurford is undoubtedly comfortable with his subject matter. He weaves science and theory together expertly. Science and Spirit

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