Several lines of evidence suggest that human language originated in manual gestures, not vocal calls. These are the ability of nonhuman primates to use manual action flexibly and intentionally, the nature of the primate mirror system and its homology with the language circuits in the human brain, the relative success in teaching apes to communicate manually rather than vocally, the ready invention of sophisticated signed languages by the deaf, the critical role of pointing in the way young children learn language, and the correlation between handedness and cerebral asymmetry for language. A gradual switch from manual to facial and vocal expression may have occurred late in hominin evolution, with speech reaching its present level of autonomy only in our own species, Homo sapiens.
Weidinger, Nicole, Katrin Lindner, Katharina Hogrefe, Wolfram Ziegler & Georg Goldenberg
2017. Getting a Grasp on Children’s Representational Capacities in Pantomime of Object Use. Journal of Cognition and Development 18:2 ► pp. 246 ff.
2015. The Emergence of Gestures. In The Handbook of Language Emergence, ► pp. 458 ff.
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