Date: Wed, 26 Nov 1997 10:48:44 +0100
Subject: Re: EvolLang: Gossip the reason for language?

> From: "Asa"
> I have been trying to find commments on Robin Dunbar's theories about
> language evulotion. For those who haven't read his book "Grooming,
> Gossip, and the Evolution of Language" (Faber & Faber Ltd, London), he
> believes that gossiping and maintaining social relationships were the
> sole reasons that language evolved. That is at least my interpreatition
> of his theory. Could you who read this present your views on the topic?
> I NEED comments for my essay. I appreciate all contributions.
I haven't read the book yet, although I've been meaning to buy it for some time (there were other books I also needed, and my budget is limited), but from what I have heard (there was a review in LINGUIST or another mailing list, I think by Larry Trask), I can say the following: 
(1)  I agree that gossiping plays an immanent role in human (both male and female) society, comparable with that of grooming among apes; 
(2)  I agree that maintaining social relationships is the principal function of human language; 
(3)  I don't quite agree that gossiping was the main moving force involved in the transition from non-human to human language. In my opinion, this was actually triggered by an ever increasing use of dialect diversity for social-group identification accompanying the transition from taxonomically given social structure among non-humans to the culturally variable and thus "self-determined" social structure of humans (this actually being that what being "human" is all about). As maintenance of dialect diversity implies language change, this also accounts for that puzzling distinction of human language from animal and machine, its perpetual changing.