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Seminar: Talking About Tools: Did Early Pleistocene Hominins Possess a Protolanguage?, Ronald Planer

Australian National University, Evolution

Date: 19 October 2016

Seminar: Talking About Tools: Did Early Pleistocene Hominins Possess a Protolanguage?

Speaker: Ronald Planer

When: Friday 21 October 2016, 2pm-3pm

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


In this paper, I consider the stone-tool industries of the early Pleistocene (2.5 mya - 800 kya) with an eye towards determining whether the hominins who existed at this stage of prehistory possessed a protolanguage. Fortunately, lithic behavior from this period has left us with a wealth of clear traces to work with, in part because of the durability of the raw materials that were being procured, transported, and knapped, and in part because of the centrality of tool manufacture to the lifeways of these hominins. I will argue that this evidence, together with certain plausible ideas about the cognitive foundations of protolanguage, suggests that early Pleistocene hominins likely did possess a protolanguage. This conclusion, in addition to being intrinsically interesting, has implications for our theories and models of the evolution of language, and arguably broader significance as well.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University