Drawing from the disciplines of cognitive science, Paleolithic anthropology, art history, and semiotics, Karen A. Haworth and Terry J. Prewitt offer a novel discussion of the origins of language, based primarily in the distinction of holistic versus analytical cognitive processing. Also, by employing a refined view of human symboling capacities grounded in the writings of C. S. Peirce, they provide a short but comprehensive explanation of what the artifacts and art of the Paleolithic and Mesolithic periods suggest about language origins. Their interpretation supports a semiotic argument that “iconic and indexical logical modeling” precedes human elaboration of experience by symbolic reference in words or propositions, and ultimately in what Peirce called “the argument.” Further, they suggest that the use of symbols to model the world developed rapidly between about 20,000 and 10,000 years ago, and has the effect of giving emphasis to analytic thought as the dominant mode of human consciousness. Rather than seeing symbols as the impetus for human logic, they argue for presymbolic elements of logic in Peirce’s sign categories shared widely by humans and other animals.
Intended readers are scholars in philosophy, anthropology, psychology, linguistics, and semiotics, as well as interested nonspecialists. The presentation is also complemented with brief personal narratives, intended to offer background that helps make a dense academic argument more accessible to the widest audience possible. The authors’ insights into the basis for language have ramifications for any number of other fields: education, psychology, philosophy, prehistory, and art, to name a few.
CHAPTER 1: Beginnings
CHAPTER 2: What Language Is, and Is Not
CHAPTER 3: Overview of the Upper Paleolithic
CHAPTER 4: Encountering Autism
CHAPTER 5: Cognitive Styles
CHAPTER 6: The Art of the Upper Paleolithic
CHAPTER 7: Empirical Corroboration
CHAPTER 8: The Art of the Mesolithic
CHAPTER 9: Signs and Lithic Technology
CHAPTER 10: The Bubble Analogy
CHAPTER 11: Semiotic of Human Evolution
CHAPTER 12: Finding Time
This is a volume that cannot be readily classified, one which promises a "synthetic approach" that bridges multiple disciplines to address perennial questions regarding the co-origins of human language and consciousness. In treating these issues across disciplines, Haworth and Prewitt endeavor to strike a balance between general language and specialized terminology. . . is the personal narrative that introduces each chapter, which describes their own evolution as academics, thinkers, and practitioners. While the purported aims may be lofty—for the analytical conclusions "to relate back ... to the human condition as it unfolds"—the effect of "such 'messy' texts" is to situate the narrator/author/ethnographer as one participant among many, coming to an understanding in a linear sequence that they are sharing with their readers. This may have the effect of making the text more legible to the non-specialist. . . Overall, this is a compact treatment of a complex subject, rendered in accessible, non-technical language, suitable for advanced students and scholars. Summing Up: Recommended. Advanced undergraduates through faculty; professionals.
This is a terrific work of integrative science. Pulling together threads from cognitive science, art history, evolutionary history and semiotics, Haworth and Prewitt construct an intriguing case for certain developments in analytical thinking within hominid brains which make possible the intricacies of symbolic argument that characterizes human linguistic thought. Following shifting patterns of holistic and analytical mental processes, they show how cave art and other clues suggest the iconic and indexic functions of language long preceded the acquisition of complex language, argue for more attention to be given to the holistic mind, and point to narrative as the stepping stone that led homo to a new world of the symbolic, analytical mind. Itself an argument for the importance of generalists, this provocative work transcends any single discipline, and points to new fertile investigations for future scholars.
With insights from prehistoric cave art to present-day autism, anthropologists Haworth and Prewitt bring considerable interdisciplinary insight to their account of how language evolved from holistic to analytical modes of cognition. Their interspersed reflections on serendipitous and shared processes of discovery will engage readers with a parallel narrative of emergence.
The question of consciousness has become a critical one in an age where machines might develop a form of consciousness, whatever that might be. The Evolution of Human Consciousness and Linguistic Behavior is crucial to the debate, since it looks at the origins of human systems of meaning-making and interpretation, focusing on language. Language requires a body, a mind, and a context to emerge, based on evolutionary patterns that allow for both adaptation and creativity. This book is brilliant; it is required reading for everyone involved in the consciousness debate. It will also be of great interest to anyone interested in what being human today implies.