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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Coevolution of language and symbolic meaning: Co‐opting meaning underlying the initial arts in early human culture

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Abstract Many of language's components, including communicating symbolic meaning, have neurobiological roots that go back millions of years in evolutionary time. The intersection with the human social survival strategy spawned additional adaptive meaning systems. Under conditions threatening survival in socially oriented human groups, extra‐language meaning systems co‐opted and adapted to facilitate unity, including the early formats of the arts. They would have percolated into cultural practice for this social purpose and ultimately survival. With evolutionary pressures tapping into biologically inherited, physiologically functioning sensory‐motor pathways, anchored specifically in rhythm cognition and motor synchrony output, initial art practice conveyed symbolic group cohesion through communal, all‐inclusive synchronously moving dance formations and rhythmically produced vocal or percussion sounds. As with the sounds of language in the deep past, and numerous other cultural behaviors, such nonmaterial early art formats would not have left marks in the archeological record but their evolutionary driven practice would have contributed to adaptive genetic factors woven into brain‐behavior evolution. Their practice is likely to have well predated unearthed art‐related objects. Consolidation of evidence and notions from language evolution, genetics, human physiology, comparative animal communication, archeology, and climate history in the distant past of early humans in Africa supports the evolutionary driven practice of initial nonmaterial art formats conveying symbolic expressions optimizing group survival. This article is categorized under: Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition Linguistics > Evolution of Language Psychology > Comparative Psychology

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Psychology > Comparative Psychology
Linguistics > Evolution of Language
Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition

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