The world's leading scientists and academics in the field came together in 2005 to debate the core subjects.
This balanced collection of papers from all sides, written to be accessible at a graduate level, is an amazing treat for anyone who has already some background on the subject.
I write this to counter-balance the negative review below which simply makes me ask if we have read the same book?
Besides the leading intellectuals who have renewed the field by helping it to clearly explore what precisely "language" and "evolution" mean: Noam ChomskyThe Science of Language: Interviews with James McGilvray
& Massimo PIATELLI-PALMARINIWhat Darwin Got Wrong
, the balanced list of scholars includes:
W. Tecumseh FITCH - world expert in evolutionary biology and author of the monumental work: The Evolution of Language
Michael C. CORBALLIS - world expert in psychology & neuroscience and author of THE best general introduction to the human evolution field: The Recursive Mind: The Origins of Human Language, Thought, and Civilization: The Origins of Human Thought, Language, and Civilization
Derek BICKERTON - linguist perpetually grinding his anti-Chomsky axe. see his book 'Adam's Tongue' for a popular, gossipy demonstration. This collection will help you understand where he is coming from and how he fits into the picture.
Ian TATTERSALL - world expert in Anthropology and author of the highly readable: Masters of the Planet: The Search for Our Human Origins (Macmillan Science)
There's also Philip LIEBERMAN - the Cognitive scientist who started us all dreaming of talking Neanderthals in the 1970s: Toward an Evolutionary Biology of Language
, Ray JACKENDOFF - who published that famous book with Pinker Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution
, Marc D. Hauser - who has published many studies on animal communication, as well as Paul M.BINGHAM, Daniel DOR, Peter GÄRDENFORS, Eva JABLONKA, Gloria ORIGGI, Mathias OSVATH, Dan SPERBER, and Karin STROMSWOLD.
Reading through these papers provides a rich overview of the debate in this exciting and renewed multidisciplinary field of Biolinguistics. This field has united some of the greatest minds alive in the quest to answer the central questions of what it means to be human: What is language? Who has language? How did it evolve? Previous work on language evolution failed to define what language is (it is more than a tool for communication- see Chomsky), and failed to take into account the true nature of evolution (see Piatelli-Palmarini). If you are hooked on the subject (Michael CORBALLIS did it for me with his accessible 'overview as a narrative' in the book sited above!) then this accessible collection of academic papers is a real treat. If you are coming to the subject after reading Derek Bickerton's gripping, gossipy but axe-grinding 'Adam's Tongue' - you will find a broadening of the debate in this collection (to which he has contributed...)
In conclusion, this is a readable, stimulating, and expertly-assembled collection of accessibly-written academic papers which provide a state-of-the-art overview of the renewed field of study of the evolution of human language within the Biolinguistics programme. This is the first time I have ever picked up a collection of academic papers and read them cover to cover. Truely exciting stuff and a must-have for anyone interested in the search for answers to the central questions.