Dietrich Stout

26 avril 2019

Dept. of Anthropology, Paleolithic Technology Lab, Emory University, Atlanta, GA, USA

Language and Technology in Human Evolution

invité par Thierry Chaminade

Abstract : Recent empirical work has breathed new life into long-standing hypotheses of an evolutionary link between human capacities for technology and language. Two widely considered possibilities are : 1) an indirect, behavioral link such that reliance upon increasingly complex and demanding technologies created selective pressure for enhanced communication, and 2) a more direct link arising from reliance on partially overlapping neurocognitive resources. Evidence from an array of comparative, developmental, ethnographic, experimental, and archaeological sources suggests these possibilities are complementary rather than exclusive, with an evolving human technological niche providing the a culturally-inherited context for the developmental construction of language-specific skills and networks from more generalized substrates. For example, human capacities for statistical learning and structured action sequencing supported by inferior frontal cortex (cf. "Broca’s Area") may be important for skilled action across a wide array of different behaviors. Unfortunately, testing such ideas has been difficult due to a lack of objective, generalizable methods for measuring structural complexity and associated processing demands across diverse, real-world behaviors. Ongoing efforts in m y lab seek to address this challenge by extracting action grammars and computing complexity metrics from naturalistic behavior sequences. This approach allows direct comparison with neuro-computational models and data from the cognitive neuroscience of language. By applying this method to the evolutionarily-relevant and archaeologically-visible behavior of stone tool-making, we can begin to test longstanding hypotheses regarding the co-evolution of tool-making and language and provide some empirical constraint on the timing and context of key events.

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