Title: Café Scientifique on Thursday 14 September 2006


Café Scientifique on Thursday 14 September 2006 at 17:30, Café Morkku, Läntinen teatterikuja 1, Helsinki

The Darwinian Paradox of Human Language
Jean-Louis Dessalles
ParisTech - École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications - France

The existence of Human language is an embarrassment for evolutionary theory. Common-sense ideas about the biological functions of language are unable to explain why there is any Darwinian advantage for speakers to speak. Recent developments in ethology and in evolution theory led to new hypotheses. A promising one is that human language evolved for speakers to display qualities that are valued during social bonding.

Former accounts of the existence of language stressed its utilitarian side, by comparing information with a good that can be exchanged and that may increase the collective welfare. In the new view, reported facts are just an excuse for speakers to demonstrate, for instance, that they have got the news before the others. In a species forming large solidarity networks, much larger than in other primate species, it is crucial to have well-informed friends. In everyday chatter, human beings miss no opportunity to show that they have this quality, even in the most futile matters. Human conversation evolved as an arena for showing off one’s ability to be relevant.

Dessalles, J-L. Why We Talk. Oxford University Press (to be published by the end of 2006).
All are welcome, no entrance fee.

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