Human Language: Evolutionary Precursors

Yen Ying Lim, Peter J Snyder

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEncyclopaedia / Dictionary EntryOtherpeer-review


Language is a uniquely human trait, and yet the need to communicate transcends all species as it facilitates, at the very least, basic survival needs. While human language is unique and without direct comparators, there is evidence for proto-language in animals from birds to primates. Although the characteristics of these forms of communication may not be equivalent to language per se, in this article, we discuss several evolutionary antecedents, or precursors to human language, such as the organization of nervous systems with regional specialization, a mirror neuron system, and the ability to perform manual gestures.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences
EditorsJames D. Wright
Number of pages6
ISBN (Print)9780080970875
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • communication
  • evolution
  • gestures
  • hominid
  • language
  • lateralization
  • mirror neurons
  • speech
  • vocalizations

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