Yesterday I finished reading Language Evolution by Morten H. Christiansen and Simon Kirby. The book contains 17 chapters written by scholars from a range of fields, including archaeology, biology, cognitive science, linguistics, neuroscience and psychology, and discusses the latest theories and current controversies in the field of language origins and evolution.
It’s very interesting and I’d certainly recommend it. However, quite a few of the chapters contradict previous ones or seek to prove them wrong, and by the time I’d finished it, I wasn’t at all sure which of many theories to believe.
They’re definitely a lot more sophisticated than the old bow-wow, ding-dong and yo-he-ho theories, which suggest that we got language by imitating animal noises or other natural sounds; that language began as instinctive responses to stimuli; or that it began as a way to facilitate cooperative labour.