Peter Gärdenfors

From Pantomime to Protolanguage

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Intentional Communication, Pantomime, Proto-Language, Teaching.

The aim of this article is to argue that pantomime forms an essential step in the evolution of human communication. On the basis of a set of functional criteria, I identify five steps in the evolution of intentional communication. As a first step, I argue that the root of pantomime is as a replacement for demonstration in early forms of teaching. Second, the function of pantomime from a request to perform an action in a teaching context is extended to a more general communicative function. In this transition, the pantomime changes from a proto-imperative to a proto-declarative. Third, pantomime is combined with gestures covering other semantic domains than actions to form more complex requests or messages. Fourth, the gestures and vocal elements are conventionalized to form a proto-sign system. Fifth, there is a transition from manual gestures being dominant to vocal expressions taking over the main part of a communicative system, resulting in a proto-language.

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