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Seminar: Daniel Dor on the role of the lie in the evolution of human language, 25th Sept, ANU

Australian National University, Evolution

Date: 18 August 2017

Seminar: The Role of the Lie in the Evolution of Human Language

Speaker: Dr Daniel Dor, Department of Communication (Tel Aviv University)

When: 3.30-5pm Tuesday 26th September

Where: Engma Room (5019), HC Coombs Building, ANU

Abstract: The literature on language evolution treats the fact that language allows for lying as a major obstacle to the emergence and development of language, and thus looks for theoretical means to constrain the lie. In this talk, I claim that this general formulation of the issue at hand misses out on the fact that lying made an enormous contribution to the evolution of language. Without the lie, language would not be as complex as it is, linguistic communication would be much simpler, the cognitive requirement of language would not be so heavy, and its role in society would be radically different.

The argument is based on Dor's (2015) theory of language as a socially-constructed communication technology, dedicated to the specific function of the instruction of imagination. The theory re-thinks the essence of lying, and suggests that the emergence of language did more to enhance the human capacity for deception than it did to enhance the human capacity for honest communication. Lying could not be constrained, but language did not collapse. Lying and language came to be entangled in a never-ending co-evolutionary spiral, which changed the map of communicative relationships within communities, and participated in shaping our languages, societies, cognitions and emotions. We evolved for lying, and because of lying, just as much as we evolved for and because of honest communication.

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