Eva Jablonka

The four dimensions of language evolution

Understanding the evolution of language, a multifunctional representation and communication practice used in many context and for many purposes, requires an approach that puts the interactions among different information-transmission systems at central stage. In addition to interactions between cultural and genetic evolution, language has affective facets underlain by epigenetic mechanisms that link the genetic and cultural levels, and I suggest that they may have played an important role in the evolution of the suite of cognitive and affective traits that enabled and promoted linguistic communication. I argue that a view of the evolution of language that highlights the multiple functions of language and the interactions among different transmission systems may help us understand the evolution of this complex social technology and provide some new research directions.    

Eva Jablonka has an M.Sc. in Microbiology from Ben-Gurion University, Israel and a Ph.D in Genetics from the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel. Her post-Doctoral studies were in the Philosophy of Science, and in Developmental Genetics. She is a professor in the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas, Tel-Aviv. Her main interest is the understanding of evolution, especially evolution that is driven by non-genetic hereditary variations and the evolution of nervous systems and consciousness. She has published over 100 papers on these topics, and the co-authored books listed below examine and discuss some of these issues.

Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb (1995) Epigenetic Inheritance and Evolution – The Lamarckian Dimension. Oxford University Press. (Paperback with new preface published in 1999);

Avital E. and Jablonka E. (2000) Animal Traditions: Behavioural Inheritance in Evolution. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press;

Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb (2005) Evolution in Four Dimensions. Genetic Epigenetic, Behavioral and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life. MIT Press (Second edition due in 2014).

With Snait B. Gissis she co-edited Transformations of Lamarckism: from Subtle Fluids to Molecular Biology (2011) MIT Press.