Journal of Economic Growth

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 293–313 | Cite as

Coevolution of human speech and trade

  • Richard D. Horan
  • Erwin H. Bulte
  • Jason F. Shogren


We propose a paleoeconomic coevolutionary explanation for the origin of speech in modern humans. The coevolutionary process, in which trade facilitates speech and speech facilitates trade, gives rise to multiple stable trajectories. While a ‘trade-speech’ equilibrium is not an inevitable outcome for modern humans, we find it is a relatively likely scenario given our species evolved in Africa under climatic conditions supporting relatively high population densities. The origin of human speech is not independent of economic institutions—the economics of early human trade can provide additional insight to help explain the physiological emergence of human speech.


Evolution Language Coordination game Early humans Paleoeconomics 

JEL Classifications

N50 O13 Q20 Q57 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard D. Horan
    • 1
  • Erwin H. Bulte
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jason F. Shogren
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Agricultural EconomicsMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA
  2. 2.Development Economics GroupWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of EconomicsTilburg UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Department of Economics and FinanceUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA

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