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The Domestication of LanguageCultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of the Human Animal$
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Daniel Cloud

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780231167925

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231167925.001.0001

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What’s Accomplished in Conversation?

What’s Accomplished in Conversation?

(p.203) 9 What’s Accomplished in Conversation?
The Domestication of Language

Daniel Cloud

Columbia University Press

This chapter first examines H. P. Grice's theory of conversation. Grice argued that human conversations generally revolve around a presumption of a common purpose. We sometimes may be deluded in thinking that such a shared purpose exists but the supposition is required to make us willing to participate. The purpose may be obvious, or frivolous, extremely serious, or horrific. The chapter then discusses what Grice's theory might be able to tell us about the role of conversation as one place where nascent conventions may be born and where they are subjected to an analogue of artificial selection. After explaining what allows conversation to serve as a tool for managing other kinds of culture, the chapter concludes by considering how these capabilities could have given rise to the very complex culture we live in today.

Keywords:   human language, conversation, H. P. Grice, conventions, artificial selection, culture

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