Grammaticalization from a biolinguistic perspective

Elly Van Gelderen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

2 Scopus citations


Estimates about the origin of modern human language range from 50,000 to 150,000 years ago. These estimates are based on archeological findings, the presence of tools and beads in e.g. the Blombos cave at 70,000 years ago, and mutations in a gene connected to speech (FOXP2) at about 120,000 years ago. Genetics and archeology work well together and suggest a homeland for modern humans in Africa. What can linguistics contribute to this picture? This chapter shows that a biolinguistic approach has much to offer. The chapter is organized as follows. Section 12.2 presents a very general picture of the Minimalist Program, and in particular its biolinguistic focus. This framework is elaborated on in Section 12.3, especially where the operation Merge is concerned. Sections 12.4 and 12.5 focus on grammaticalization, discussing how it follows from economy and how it is relevant to language evolution; Section 12.6 concludes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Prehistory of Language
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780191720369
ISBN (Print)9780199545872
StatePublished - May 1 2010


  • Biolinguistics
  • Evolution
  • Grammaticalization
  • Language capacity
  • Language development
  • Minimalist program

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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