Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science

Living Edition
| Editors: Todd K. Shackelford, Viviana A. Weekes-Shackelford


  • Dieter G. HillertEmail author
Living reference work entry

Later version available View entry history

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_3851-2



The term Protosyntax refers in cognitive science to a precursor stage of the human capacity for modern languages. It includes linear phrases with primarily uninflected nouns and verbs.


The notion Protosyntax, also called protolanguage or linear grammar, is a possible window to our understanding of how the modern language capacity might have evolved from single words to complex syntactic structures. It typically refers to a hypothetical precursor stage in the language domain, but in principle, it can also refer to other cognitive capacities such as the Protosyntax of music. The linguistic notion implies that language evolved gradually in the hominid lineage from basic to more complex syntactic structures. Protosyntax uses a linear order of words, is non-hierarchical organized, and lacks inflectional morphology. For instance, it does not use inflections...

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California-San DiegoLa JollaUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Todd K. Shackelford
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA