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By the Waters of Babel: Jean-Louis Dessalles’ Why We Talk

Cowie, Fiona (2010) By the Waters of Babel: Jean-Louis Dessalles’ Why We Talk. Biology and Philosophy, 25 (5). pp. 880-888. ISSN 0169-3867.

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Why We Talk is a complex, ambitious, original, thought-provoking, and sometimes frustrating book. In it, Jean-Louis Dessalles argues that the critical spur to the development of human language—language’s true biological function—was political. It wasn’t political in any of the senses hitherto floated in the literature, though: language didn’t evolve because it fostered group cohesion or cooperation, or facilitated mind-reading or manipulation. Instead, language originally served more or less the same function as ritualized displays of aggression and submission in many social animals: among early Homo (maybe erectus, maybe only sapiens—p. 333), one’s gifts in the area of gab conferred status (recall Socrates’ gripes about the Sophists) and with higher status came, basically, more and better kids, both for the loquacious themselves and for anyone smart enough to ally himself with them.

Item Type:Article
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Alternate Title:Jean-Louis Dessalles’ Why We Talk
Additional Information:© 2009 Science+Business Media B.V. Received: 27 October 2008; Accepted: 23 April 2009; Published online: 23 June 2009.
Subject Keywords:Evolution of language - Costly signaling - Evolutionary game theory - Semantics - Pragmatics - Syntax
Issue or Number:5
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20110112-134521069
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Official Citation:Machery, E., J.-L. Dessalles, et al. (2010). "Symposium on J.-L. Dessalles’s Why we Talk (OUP, 2007): Precis by J.-L. Dessalles, commentaries by E. Machery, F. Cowie, and J. Alexander, Replies by J.-L. Dessalles." Biology and Philosophy 25(5): 851-901.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:21735
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:31 Jan 2011 20:30
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 02:28

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