Keywords: Origins of Language; Protolanguage; Inferential Communication; Evolution of Language; Mindreading.
The debate on protolanguage represents a litmus test for investigating the issue of the precursors of language. Currently, this debate is characterized by unilateral theorethical perspectives, disagreeing respectively or contradicting each other: from the thesis that language appeared suddenly without any intermediate step to the idea that the origin of language has to be considered in terms of a gradualistic evolutionary process governed by natural selection. From a general point of view, the main aim of the present paper is to claim that the problem of the origin of language has to be referred to synthetic approaches rather than unilateral perspectives. From a more specific point of view, the aim of this paper is twofold: first, to show that the notion of protolanguage is a useful tool for investigating the origins of language; second, to demonstrate that supporting a specific notion of protolanguage (that of "pragmatic protolanguage") allows the construction of an evolutionary model in which concepts such as exaptation, adaptation and cultural evolution are equally involved in explaining the early stages of human communication.