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Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language

Posted By: TimMa
Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language

R. I. M. Dunbar
Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language

Publisher: Harvard University Press | 1998 | ISBN-10: 0674363361 | ISBN-13: 978 0674363366 | English | PDF | 242 pages | 5.62 Mb

Why is it that among all the primates, only humans have language? According to Professor Robin Dunbar's new book, Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language, humans gossip because we don't groom each other. Dunbar builds his argument in a lively discussion that touches on such varied topics as the behavior of gelada baboons, Darwin's theory of evolution, computer-generated poetry, and the significance of brain size. He begins with the social organization of the great apes. These animals live in small groups and maintain social cohesion through almost constant grooming activities. Grooming is a way to forge alliances, establish hierarchy, offer comfort, or make apology. Once a population expands beyond a certain number, however, it becomes impossible for each member to maintain constant physical contact with every other member of the group. Considering the large groups in which human beings have found it necessary to live, Dunbar posits that we developed language as a substitute for physical intimacy.

Whether or not you accept Dunbar's premise, his book is worth reading, if only for its animated prose and wealth of scientific information. An obvious choice for science buffs, Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language is a wonderful book for anyone with an inquiring mind and an interest in what makes the world go round. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal
Dunbar (psychology, Univ. of Liverpool) has written a provocative book about the sociology of language use. He begins with a discussion of primate behavior, physiology, and Darwinian evolution. Then he shows the importance of the theory of mind and intentionality in discussing the difference between other species of primates and Homo sapiens. He disagrees with Piaget's ideas on human development and develops a different interpretation. He explains the beginning and uses of language as grooming and gossip, highlighted by the abilities and limits of language as part of human life. In the last chapter he gives some implications of his ideas for changing and understanding social dynamics. This fascinating study is recommended for language and psychology collections.?Gene Shaw, NYPL
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