This volume is based on a conference the original intent of which was to survey the updated landscape of research directions sparked by Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch's seminal “The Faculty of Language: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve?”, a paper that appeared in Science in 2002 and was significant, not only in framing current debates on language evolution within and across disciplines in anthropology, biology, neurosciences, cognitive sciences, philosophy, and, of course, linguistics, and not only for the novel and provocative views it advanced, but also for the controversies it ignited through its focus on recursion as central to the evolution of the language faculty. The chapters in this book present a collection of reflections and further research conducted by top scholars working in the evolution of language, nearly all influenced in one way or another by the Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch (HCF) paper.
For many, including us, HCF and related efforts have signaled a symbolic lifting of the ban on investigations into the origin of language officially imposed by the Linguistics Society of Paris in 1871. Although this ban is often cited as an example of arbitrary scientific legislation, commanding no real respect, its effects have been surprisingly potent in our own field of linguistics. Whereas anthropology, biology, psychology, and philosophy have happily ignored the Paris ban, addressing evolutionary questions of all sorts, including those that encompass language and its origin, linguistics, as a field, has shown surprising reticence on the topic.