a “Caruso ” scenario for language’s ori-gin: sexier singers got more mates, lead-ing to language’s use for both communica-tion and, crucially, thought ( 1). More than 140 years on, have we made any progress? Judging by The Origins of Grammar, not so much. James Hurford, an eminent Edinburgh University linguist, has been at the forefront of a recent revival of evolutionary thinking regarding the origin of language. The over-arching principles of gradualism and conti-nuity guide his account. He clearly means to stand on Darwin’s shoulders—evolution by natural selection via “numerous, successive, slight modifi cations.

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