The Peacock, the Sparrow, and the Evolution of Human Language
How did human language arise, and what accounts for its present structure? Over the past decade, there has been great interest -- and impressive progress -- in using evolutionary theory to address to these and related questions. In particular, a number of studies have shown that several key features of language could plausibly arise and be maintained by natural selection when individuals have coicident interests. However, these models have largely ignored a vital strategic component of the social context in which language is employed: individuals in real societies, both past and present, do not have fully coincident interests. Simultaneously, theoretical models of animal communication have confronted these strategic issues head-on, but they have largely focused on costly (Zahavian) signals. We approach this problem directly, asking the following question: Can language evolve and be maintained under common biological scenarios of non-coincident interest? Using a trio of examples -- the peacock, the sparrow, and human language -- we show that an explicit connection can be drawn between "costly signalling theory" as developed for the study of animal communication, and the "cheap" signals employed in human language. We argue that coincident interests are not a prerequisite for linguistic communication, and explore the structural features to be expected of languages employed in societies with non-coincident interests. We find that many of the results derived previously by assuming coincident interests will also be expected under less restrictive models of society.
To our knowledge, this item is not available for
download. To find whether it is available, there are three
1. Check below under "Related research" whether another version of this item is available online.
2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.
|Date of creation:||May 2001|
|Date of revision:|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: 1399 Hyde Park Road, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87501|
Web page: http://www.santafe.edu/sfi/publications/working-papers.html
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Rubinstein,Ariel, 2000.
"Economics and Language,"
Cambridge University Press, number 9780521789905, June.
- A. Rubinstein, 1999. "Economics and Language," Princeton Economic Theory Papers 00s6, Economics Department, Princeton University.
- Ariel Rubinstein, 2005. "Economics and Language," Levine's Bibliography 666156000000000654, UCLA Department of Economics.
- Rubinstein, A., 1998. "Economics and Language," Papers 14-98, Tel Aviv.
- Michael Lachmann & Carl T. Bergstrom & Szabolcs Számadó, 2000. "The Death of Costly Signalling?," Working Papers 00-12-074, Santa Fe Institute.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wop:safiwp:01-05-027. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Thomas Krichel)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.