Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Short Communication

Beyond prosody and infant-directed speech: Affective, social construction of meaning in the origins of language

Barbara J. King a1 and Stuart Shanker a2
a1 Department of Anthropology, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, 23187 [email protected]
a2 Departments of Psychology and Philosophy, Atkinson College, York University, Toronto, Ontario, M3J 1P3 Canada [email protected]


Our starting point for the origins of language goes beyond prosody or infant-directed speech to highlight the affective, multimodal, and co-constructed nature of meaning-making that was likely present before the split between African great apes and hominins. Analysis of vocal and gestural caregiving practices in hominins, and of meaning-making via gestural interaction in African great apes, supports our thesis.