Comparing Human and Nonhuman Animal Performance on Domain- General Functions : Towards a Multiple Bottleneck Scenario of Language Evolution

  • Fagot Joël
  • Malassis Raphaelle
  • Medam Tiphaine
  • Montant Marie


How come that Homo sapiens is the sole animal species communicating with a language (i.e., a human language)? Theorists of language evolution have mostly adopted a human- centered approach to address this question. This chapter discusses the limits of this approach and proposes an alternative that consists in studying the domain general functions that serve language comprehension and production from a comparative and evolutionary perspective. Special attention is given to domain general processes which allow humans and animals to integrate information in space and time, and thus develop perceptual and more conceptual abstract categories. This chapter presents illustrative studies that reveal the various aspects in which these integration processes diEer in human and nonhuman animals. Finally, we discuss the source of these species diEerences and their potential implications for our understanding of language evolution.