The evolution of language from social cognition

Curr Opin Neurobiol. 2014 Oct;28:5-9. doi: 10.1016/j.conb.2014.04.003. Epub 2014 May 6.


Despite their differences, human language and the vocal communication of nonhuman primates share many features. Both constitute a form of joint action, rely on similar neural mechanisms, and involve discrete, combinatorial cognition. These shared features suggest that during evolution the ancestors of modern primates faced similar social problems and responded by evolving similar systems of perception, communication and cognition. When language later evolved from this common foundation, many of its distinctive features were already in place.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animal Communication*
  • Animals
  • Biological Evolution*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Language*
  • Social Behavior*