Primate social cognition and the origins of language

Trends Cogn Sci. 2005 Jun;9(6):264-6. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2005.04.001.


Are the cognitive mechanisms underlying language unique, or can similar mechanisms be found in other domains? Recent field experiments demonstrate that baboons' knowledge of their companions' social relationships is based on discrete-valued traits (identity, rank, kinship) that are combined to create a representation of social relations that is hierarchically structured, open-ended, rule-governed, and independent of sensory modality. The mechanisms underlying language might have evolved from the social knowledge of our pre-linguistic primate ancestors.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cognition*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Papio
  • Psychological Theory
  • Social Behavior
  • Social Perception*