Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-5c569c448b-ph4cd Total loading time: 0.316 Render date: 2022-07-05T04:48:15.350Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

8 - The Role of Mimesis in Infant Language Development: Evidence for Phylogeny?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 November 2009

Chris Knight
Affiliation:
University of East London
Michael Studdert-Kennedy
Affiliation:
Haskins Laboratories
James Hurford
Affiliation:
University of Edinburgh
Get access

Summary

Donald (1991, 1993, 1998) has proposed an imaginative evolutionary scenario involving a preverbal ‘mimetic’ stage of symbolic culture. Although nonverbal symbolic expression continues to play an important role in human mental life today (in art, athletics, crafts, social ritual, theater), it tends to be overlooked due to the vastly more salient role of verbal symbols. Donald characterises mimesis as the ability to reproduce or reenact an event or activity, in order to consider it, analyse it, preserve it in memory, recall it at will, compare it with other events, and refer to it at will, i.e. to communicate it to others – all without the use of language.

Such a symbolic capacity in the preverbal predecessors of Homo sapiens would have prepared the way for the relatively rapid development of language as a consequence of the later descent of the larynx and subsequent vocal tract changes that made the phonetic production of speech as we now know it physiologically possible. The goal of the present chapter is to think through the possible relevance, for Donald's concept of an evolutionary stage of preverbal symbolic communication or mimesis, of what is currently understood regarding the biological, social and individual origins of language in the child, bearing in mind the considerable differences in principle between the problems of phylogeny as against ontogeny.

Mimesis as Donald describes it involves a sophisticated ‘modeling’ of bodily posture, expression, and gesture.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Evolutionary Emergence of Language
Social Function and the Origins of Linguistic Form
, pp. 130 - 145
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2000

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)
7
Cited by

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×