The 4 target article whose abstracts appear below have recently appeared in PSYCOLOQUY, a refereed online journal of Open Peer Commentary sponsored by the American Psychological Association.

OPEN PEER COMMENTARY on these target article is now invited.
Qualified professional biobehavioural, neural or cognitive scientists should consult PSYCOLOQUY's Websites or send email (below) for Instructions if not familiar with format or acceptance criteria for commentaries (all submissions are refereed).

To submit articles or to seek information:



Place, Ullin T. (2000)
The Role of the hand in the Evolution of Language.
Psycoloquy: 11(007) Language Gesture (1)



Target Article on Language Origins

Ullin T. Place
School of Philosophy - University of Leeds
School of Psychology - University of Wales, Bangor, Wales UK


ABSTRACT: This target article has four sections. Section I sets out four principles which should guide any attempt to reconstruct the evolution of an existing biological characteristic. Section II sets out thirteen principles specific to a reconstruction of the evolution of language. Section III sets out eleven pieces of evidence for the view that vocal language must have been preceded by an earlier language of gesture. Based on those principles and evidence, Section IV sets out seven proposed stages in the process whereby language evolved: (1) the use of mimed movement to indicate an action to be performed, (2) the development of referential pointing which, when combined with mimed movement, leads to a language of gesture, (3) the development of vocalisation, initially as a way of imitating the calls of animals, (4) counting on the fingers leading into (5) the development of symbolic as distinct from iconic representation, (6) the introduction of the practice of question and answer, and (7) the emergence of syntax as a way of disambiguating utterances that can otherwise be disambiguated only by gesture.

Crow, Timothy J. (2000) Did Homo Sapiens Speciate on the y Chromosome?.
Psycoloquy: 11(001) Language sex Chromosomes (1)



Target Article on Language-Sex-Chromosomes

Timothy J. Crow
POWIC - University of Oxford
Department of Psychiatry - Warneford Hospital - Oxford OX3 7JX UK


ABSTRACT: It is hypothesised that the critical change (a "saltation") in the transition from a precursor hominid to modern Homo sapiens occurred in a gene for cerebral lateralisation located on the Y chromosome in a block of sequences that had earlier transposed from the X. Sexual selection acting upon an X-Y homologous gene to determine the relative rates of development of the hemispheres across the antero-posterior axis ("cerebral torque") allowed language to evolve as a species-specific mate recognition system. Human evolution may exemplify a general role for sex chromosomal change in speciation events in sexually reproducing organisms.

Burling, Robbins (1999) The Cognitive Prerequisites for Language.
Psycoloquy: 10(032) Language Prerequisites (1)



Target Article on Language-Prerequisites

Robbins Burling
Department of Anthropology - 1020 LSA Building
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor MI 48109 USA


ABSTRACT: The first use of words by our early ancestors probably
depended on four cognitive capacities: A rich conceptualunderstanding of the world around us; the ability to use and understand motivated signs, both icons and indices; the ability to
imitate; the ability to infer the referential intentions of others. The latter three capacities are rare or absent in nonprimate mammals, but incipient in apes and well developed in modern humans. Before early humans could have begun to use words these capacities would have needed further development than is found in modern apes. It is not clear why selection favoured these skills more strongly in our ancestors than in the ancestors of apes.

Bichakjian, Bernard H. (1999) Language Evolution and the Complexity Criterion.
Psycoloquy: 10(033) Language Complexity (1)



Target Article on Language-Complexity

Bernard H. Bichakjian
Department of French - University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands


ABSTRACT: Though it is increasingly accepted in the behavioral sciences, the evolutionary approach is still meeting resistance in linguistics. Linguists generally cling to the idea that alternative linguistic features are simply gratuitous variants of one another, while the advocates of innate grammars, who make room for evolution as a biological process, exclude the evolution of languages. The rationale given is that today's languages are all complex systems. This argument is based on the failure to distinguish between complexities of form and function. The proper analysis reveals instead that linguistic features have consistently decreased their material complexity, while increasing their functionality. A systematic historical survey will show instead that languages have evolved and linguistic features have developed along a Darwinian line.


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