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Behavioural Neurology
Volume 2015 (2015), Article ID 872487, 16 pages
Review Article

A Proposed Neurological Interpretation of Language Evolution

Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199, USA

Received 17 December 2014; Revised 15 March 2015; Accepted 17 May 2015

Academic Editor: João Quevedo

Copyright © 2015 Alfredo Ardila. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Since the very beginning of the aphasia history it has been well established that there are two major aphasic syndromes (Wernicke’s-type and Broca’s-type aphasia); each one of them is related to the disturbance at a specific linguistic level (lexical/semantic and grammatical) and associated with a particular brain damage localization (temporal and frontal-subcortical). It is proposed that three stages in language evolution could be distinguished: (a) primitive communication systems similar to those observed in other animals, including nonhuman primates; (b) initial communication systems using sound combinations (lexicon) but without relationships among the elements (grammar); and (c) advanced communication systems including word-combinations (grammar). It is proposed that grammar probably originated from the internal representation of actions, resulting in the creation of verbs; this is an ability that depends on the so-called Broca’s area and related brain networks. It is suggested that grammar is the basic ability for the development of so-called metacognitive executive functions. It is concluded that while the lexical/semantic language system (vocabulary) probably appeared during human evolution long before the contemporary man (Homo sapiens sapiens), the grammatical language historically represents a recent acquisition and is correlated with the development of complex cognition (metacognitive executive functions).