Evolution of language

I’ve started working on another book, a middle grade story which is told from the point of view of a dog. So my “research” includes reading How to Speak Dog by Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology who has written a lot about dogs. An interesting theory he discusses is that our association with dogs may be responsible for the evolution of human language. Human ancestors may have domesticated dogs as long as 100,000 years ago. Since dogs have a good sense of smell and can track even while running, humans may have had less need of an acute sense of smell. Because of this we were able to evolve more flexible facial features which could form complex sounds.
Pretty interesting theory, isn’t it? What do you think?

2 thoughts on “Evolution of language

  1. You might like to read the book. As I said, and he states, it’s only a theory. In fact, the author calls it a “marvelously speculative theory” (pgs. 18-19 in the book). If you find out more, please post it. I’m interested.

  2. Interesting enough that I’d like to read more of the theory than just your summary. But I’m a skeptic. In the first place, speech and language are two different things, with different evolutionary tracks and different degrees of development in other species. It sounds like Coren is talking more about speech than language, and I wonder if he can really substantiate a) that there’s a tradeoff between sense of smell and facial flexibility, and b) that facial flexibility is really essential to making the complex sounds of human speech. Parrots seem to do pretty well. As for language, I think it has a lot to do with the brain.

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