SubjectsSubjects(version: 861)
Course, academic year 2019/2020
The emergence of language in the human mind - AAA500173
Title: The emergence of language in the human mind
Guaranteed by: Department of the English Language and ELT Methodology (21-UAJD)
Faculty: Faculty of Arts
Actual: from 2019 to 2019
Semester: summer
Points: 0
E-Credits: 5
Examination process: summer s.:
Hours per week, examination: summer s.:0/2 C [hours/week]
Capacity: unknown / 13 (unknown)
Min. number of students: unlimited
State of the course: taught
Language: English
Teaching methods: full-time
Additional information:
Note: course can be enrolled in outside the study plan
enabled for web enrollment
Teacher(s): Eva Maria Luef, M.A., Ph.D.
Last update: Bc. Andrea Mudrová (13.01.2020)
Studies of the emergence of language focus on the evolutionary and developmental factors that affect the acquisition and auto-organization of a linguistic system. Emergent accounts of language emphasize the extent to which a complex set of communicative behaviors and forms arise from a few simple mechanisms. Thus, they essentially describe moments in time when non-linguistic systems become linguistic. Language development is divided into distinct stages, where the appearance of one property depended on another that preceded it. Identifying structures within emerging systems allows us to analyze inderdependencies and contraints imposed by linguistic developments. Naturally, the study of the origin and emergence of language is a highly interdisciplinary endeavor. Recent advances in the brain and cognitive sciences spurred a surge of scientific interest in language emergence, with evidence coming from comparative psychology, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, and theoretical linguistics. This seminar will survey a cross-section of modern theories, methods and research pertaining to the emergence of language from an evolutionary and human perspective.

Course completion requirements
Last update: Bc. Andrea Mudrová (13.01.2020)


There is no textbook for this course; readings and other class notes will be posted on a class website (link tba). The reading list may be subject to change.

Last update: Bc. Andrea Mudrová (13.01.2020)



Carnie, A. (2002). Syntax: A generative introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell.


Christiansen, M. H. & Chater, N. (2015). The language faculty that wasn’t: A usage-based account of natural language recursion. Frontiers in Psychology, DOI:


Corballis, M. C. (1993). The lopsided ape: Evolution of the generative mind. New York: Oxford University Press.


Dabrowska, E. (2015). What exactly is Universal Grammar, and has anyone seen it? Frontiers in Psychology, 6, DOI:


Darwin, C. (1871/ 2011). The descent of man. United States: Pacific Publishing Studio.


Evans, V. & Green, M. (2006). Cognitive linguistics: An introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.


Gibson, K. R. (2013). Language or protolanguage? In M. Tallerman & K. R. Gibson (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of language evolution (pp. 46-58). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Hauser, M., Chomsky, N. & Fitch, T. W. (2002). The faculty of language: What is it, who has it, and how did it evolve? Science, 298, 1569-1579.


Hillert, D. (2015). On the evolving biology of language. Frontiers in Psychology, DOI:


Jackendoff, R. (2011). What ist he human language faculty? Two views. Language, 87/3, 586-624.


Luef, E. M. (2018). Tracing the human brain’s classical language areas in extant and extinct hominids. In E. M. Luef & M. M. Marin (Eds.), The talking species: Perspectives on the evolutionary, neuronal and cultural foundations of language (pp. 29-56). Graz: Uni-Press.


Miller, G. (2000). The mating mind: How sexual choice shaped the evolution of human nature. New York: Anchor Books.


Pepperberg, I. (2013). Evolution of communication and language: Insights from parrots and songbirds. In M. Tallerman & K. R. Gibson (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of language evolution (pp. 109-119). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Slater, P. (2013). Bird song and language. In M. Tallerman & K. R. Gibson (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of language evolution (pp. 96-101). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Van Lancker Sidtis, D. (2008). The relation of human language to human emotion. In B. Stemmer & H. A. Whitaker (Eds.), Handbook of the neuroscience of language (pp. 199-207). Amsterdam et al.: Elsevier.

Requirements to the exam
Last update: Bc. Andrea Mudrová (13.01.2020)


-          Oral presentation in class

-          Midterm exam

-          Final exam

Last update: Bc. Andrea Mudrová (13.01.2020)





Required Readings



Introduction: Review of key concepts for the study of language, cognition, and emergence



Evolution of the language brain

Luef, 2018: 29-46



What birdsong can tell us about human language

Slater, 2013: pp. 96-101

Pepperberg, 2013: 109-119



Language from the viewpoint of Darwinian selection processes

Hillert, 2015

Miller, 2000: pp. 33-67



Parallels and non-parallels between nonhuman primate communication and human language

Darwin, 1871/ 2011:, pp. 55-59

Gibson, 2013: pp. 46-58



Midterm exam



What exactly is Universal Grammar, and has anyone seen it?

Dabrowska, 2015



The shrinking ’language faculty’

Christiansen & Chater, 2015

Hauser, Chomsky & Fitch, 2002



Recursion in language and elsewhere in the mind/ brain

Corballis, 1993: pp. 219-246.

Jackendoff, 2011



Cognitive vs. generative linguistics

Carnie, 2002: pp. 3-42

Evans & Green, 2006: pp. 27-50



Emergent categories in first language acquisition


Students present


Second language as an emergent system


Students present


The relation of human language to human emotion

Van Lancker Sidtis, 2008: pp. 199-207



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