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The Domestication of Language – Cultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of the Human Animal - Columbia Scholarship Online
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The Domestication of Language: Cultural Evolution and the Uniqueness of the Human Animal

Daniel Cloud


Language did not evolve only in the distant past. Our shared understanding of the meanings of words is ever-changing, and we make conscious, rational decisions about which words to use and what to mean by them every day. Applying Charles Darwin's theory of “unconscious artificial selection” to the evolution of linguistic conventions, this book suggests a new, evolutionary explanation for the rich, complex, and continually reinvented meanings of our words. The choice of which words to use and in which sense to use them is both a “selection event” and an intentional decision, making Darwin's acc ... More

Keywords: human languages, word meaning, Charles Darwin, unconscious artificial selection, linguistic conventions, linguistic evolution

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2014 Print ISBN-13: 9780231167925
Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015 DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231167925.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Daniel Cloud, author
Princeton University