Michael Tomasello: "Origins of Human Communication"

Origins of Human Communication
Great apes do not use the pointing gesture with conspecifics, whereas the pointing gesture is a crucially important part of face-to-face human communication. Human infants use the pointing gesture spontaneously for at least three different functions from before language begins, two of them purely cooperative (sharing emotions and providing others with needed information), and they use it sensitively in the context of various kinds of joint attentional interactions. It is argued that the pointing gesture embodies many aspects of the human adaptation for cooperative communication involving shared intentionality, and so it is the best candidate we have for an immediate precursor to human language.

Lecture by Michael Tomasello, Department of Developmental and Comparative Psychology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.