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Language, more than anything else, is what makes us human. It appears that no communication system of equivalent power exists elsewhere in the animal kingdom. Any normal human child will learn a language based on rather sparse data in the surrounding world, while even the brightest chimpanzee, exposed to the same environment, will not. Why not? How, and why, did language evolve in our species and not in others? Since Darwin's theory of evolution, questions about the origin of language have generated a rapidly-growing scientific literature, stretched across a number of disciplines, much of it directed at specialist audiences. The diversity of perspectives - from linguistics, anthropology, speech science, genetics, neuroscience and evolutionary biology - can be bewildering. Tecumseh Fitch cuts through this vast literature, bringing together its most important insights to explore one of the biggest unsolved puzzles of human history.
W. Tecumseh Fitch is a Reader in Psychology at the University of St Andrews. He studies the evolution of cognition and communication in animals and man, focusing on the evolution of speech, music and language. He is interested in all aspects of vocal communication in terrestrial vertebrates, particularly vertebrate vocal production in relation to the evolution of speech and music in our own species.