Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary

The potential for genetic adaptations to language

Mark Pagela1 and Quentin D. Atkinsona2

a1 School of Biological Sciences, University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading RG6 6AJ, United Kingdom [email protected]

a2 Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Oxford, Oxford OX2 6PN, United Kingdom. [email protected]


We suggest there is somewhat more potential than Christiansen & Chater (C&C) allow for genetic adaptations specific to language. Our uniquely cooperative social system requires sophisticated language skills. Learning and performance of some culturally transmitted elements in animals is genetically based, and we give examples of features of human language that evolve slowly enough that genetic adaptations to them may arise.