, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 297–300 | Cite as

Can Homo erectus put an end to Chomsky’s mechanistic metaphysics?

Daniel L. Everett: How language began: The story of humanity’s greatest invention. Liveright Publishing, Norton & Co., 2017, 348 pp, ISBN: 9780871407955, $29.00 HB
  • Gregory Michael Nixon
Book Review

This should be a watershed book as it effectively demolishes the unwarranted assumptions that support the work of the major linguist of our times, Noam Chomsky. Instead of regarding language as predominantly computation and only secondarily as communication, as Chomsky insists, Daniel Everett offers convincing evidence that language’s main function is to communicate shared meanings within a cultural community, which allows for social learning and cultural creativity.

To demonstrate this, Everett attempts to trace the origin of symbol use, which he sees as the foundation of human language, and he finds it in the distant prehistoric past among the far-travelled species we designate as Homo erectus. In linguistic terminology, Everett defends the constitutive view of language over the designative, preferred by cognitive scientists. After years of refusing to discuss the origin of language, Chomsky in 2002 agreed with the metaphysical speculation that it must have begun as a lucky neural...


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Northern British ColumbiaPrince GeorgeCanada

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