Prelinguistic evolution in early hominins: whence motherese?

Bibliographic Collection: 
MOCA Reference, APE
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Falk, Dean
Year of Publication: 2004
Journal: Behav Brain Sci
Volume: 27
Issue: 4
Pagination: 491-503; discussion 503-83
Date Published: 08/2004
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 0140-525X
Keywords: Animals, Biological Evolution, Child Development, Diet, Feeding Behavior, Female, Gestures, Hominidae, Humans, Infant, Infant Behavior, Infant, Newborn, Language, Male, Models, Theoretical, Mother-Child Relations, Nonverbal Communication, Pan troglodytes, Vocalization, Animal

In order to formulate hypotheses about the evolutionary underpinnings that preceded the first glimmerings of language, mother-infant gestural and vocal interactions are compared in chimpanzees and humans and used to model those of early hominins. These data, along with paleoanthropological evidence, suggest that prelinguistic vocal substrates for protolanguage that had prosodic features similar to contemporary motherese evolved as the trend for enlarging brains in late australopithecines/early Homo progressively increased the difficulty of parturition, thus causing a selective shift toward females that gave birth to relatively undeveloped neonates. It is hypothesized that hominin mothers adopted new foraging strategies that entailed maternal silencing, reassuring, and controlling of the behaviors of physically removed infants (i.e., that shared human babies' inability to cling to their mothers' bodies). As mothers increasingly used prosodic and gestural markings to encourage juveniles to behave and to follow, the meanings of certain utterances (words) became conventionalized. This hypothesis is based on the premises that hominin mothers that attended vigilantly to infants were strongly selected for, and that such mothers had genetically based potentials for consciously modifying vocalizations and gestures to control infants, both of which receive support from the literature.

Alternate Journal: Behav Brain Sci
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