chapter
12 Pages

Introduction—Issues and themes in comparative studies: Language, cognition, and culture

WithLOUISE S. RÖSKA-HARDY

Anyone seeking to understand humans’ place in nature is faced with an explanatory challenge where human language, cognition, and culture are concerned, especially within an evolutionary perspective. These human capacities are not just distinctive; they are apparently unparalleled in the animal kingdom. No other known species communicates by means of a system with the features of human language. Language enables us to produce novel utterances that others can understand and lets us offload information onto artifacts like note paper and computers. It allows us to talk about the past and the future, to refer to things that are physically distant and to things that do not exist. Importantly, language allows humans to influence and affect the cognition and the culture of other humans by symbolic means-a feat unequalled among other animals.