Our proud human race…

After the SLP more or less banned the topic from linguistic study in 1866, work published since the 1970’s on gesture and (sign) language, action recognition (and mirror neurons) made it once again the scientific wild west: the (Gestural) Origins of Language.

So, now in the news: Researchers Meguerditchian and Vauclair studied 60 captive baboons and especially a gesture of quick, repetitive rubbing or slapping on the ground, apparently to threaten or intimidate. More importantly, it appears to be lateralized (they use their right hand, thus their left hemisphere of the brain- here there be language centers).

You talking to me? You talkin’ to me?!

A simplified sum of the arguments: Baboons gesture (mostly) right, chimps gesture right, children gesture right. In the brain language is left (connected to right hand). Gesture is part of language. We all come from the same ancestors. Humans must have kickstarted communication through gestures as well. The vocals, rude at first as a monkey’s cries, accompanied the gestures at first but became sophisticated and dominant later. Solid as a rock.

I think I should finally read that Jackendoff book on the foundations of language. No linguist can take a gesture guy serious without some of the essential baggage.