One volume in three parts (2011) Oxford University Press (UK), and (2012) Oxford University Press (USA).

(See reviews of The Origins of Grammar here.)

Interview with Chris Cummins about The Origins of Grammar on the New Books in Language website.

Table of Contents


PART I: Pre-Grammar

Introduction: Twin Evolutionary Platforms: Animal Song and Human Symbols

1 Animal syntax? Implications for Language as Behaviour

1.1 Wild animals have no semantically compositional syntax
1.1.1 Bees and ants evolve simple innate compositional systems
1.1.2 Combining territorial and sexual messages
1.1.3 Combinatorial, but not compositional, monkey and bird calls
1.2 Noncompositional syntax in animals: its possible relevance
1.3 Formal Language Theory for the birds, and matters arising
1.3.1 Simplest syntax: birdsong examples
1.3.2 Iteration, competence, performance and numbers
1.3.3 Hierarchically structured behaviour
1.3.4 Overt behaviour and neural mechanisms
1.3.5 Training animals on syntactic `languages'
1.4 Summary

2 First Shared Lexicon

2.1 Continuity from primate calls
2.1.1 Monkey-ape-human brain data
2.1.2 Manual gesture and lateralization
2.1.3 Fitness out of the here and now
2.2 Sound symbolism, synaesthesia and arbitrariness
2.2.1 Synaesthetic sound symbolism
2.2.2 Conventional sound symbolism
2.3 Or monogenesis?
2.4 Social convergence on conventionalized common symbols
2.5 The objective pull: public use affects private concepts
2.6 Public labels as tools helping thought

PART II: What Evolved

Introduction: Some Linguistics: How to Study Syntax, and What Evolved

3 Syntax in the Light of Evolution

3.1 Preamble: the syntax can of worms
3.2 Language in its discourse context
3.3 Speech evolved first
3.4 Message packaging -- sentence-like units
3.5 Competence-plus
3.5.1 Regular production
3.5.2 Intuition
3.5.3 Gradience
3.5.4 Working memory
3.6 Individual differences in competence-plus
3.7 Numerical constraints on competence-plus

4 What Evolved: Language Learning Capacity

4.1 Massive storage
4.2 Hierarchical structure
4.3 Word-internal structure
4.4 Syntactic categories
4.4.1 Distributional criteria and the proliferation of categories
4.4.2 Categories are primitive, too -- contra radicalism
4.4.3 Multiple default inheritance hierarchies
4.4.4 Features
4.4.5 Phrasal categories are unnecessary
4.4.6 Functional categories -- grammatical words
4.4.7 Neural correlates of syntactic categories
4.5 Grammatical relations
4.6 Long range dependencies
4.7 Constructions, complex items with variables
4.8 Island constraints
4.9 Wrapping up

5 What Evolved: Languages

5.1 Widespread features of languages
5.2 Growth rings -- layering
5.3 Linguists on complexity
5.4 Pirahã
5.5 Riau Indonesian
5.6 Creoles and pidgins
5.6.1 Identifying creoles and pidgins
5.6.2 Substrates and superstrates
5.6.3 Properties of pidgins and creoles
5.7 Basic Variety
5.8 New Sign Languages
5.8.1 Nicaraguan Sign Language
5.8.2 Al-Sayyid Bedouin Sign Language
5.9 Social correlates of complexity
5.9.1 Shared knowledge and a less autonomous code
5.9.2 Child and adult learning and morphological complexity
5.9.3 Historico-geographic influences on languages

PART III: What Happened

Introduction: The evolution of syntax

6 The Pre-existing Platform

6.1 Setting: in Africa
6.2 General issues about evolutionary `platforms'
6.3 Early hominin semantics and pragmatics
6.4 Massive storage
6.5 Hierarchical structure
6.5.1 Kanzi doesn't get NP coordinations
6.5.2 Hierarchical structure in non-linguistic activities
6.5.3 Hierarchical structure in the thoughts expressed
6.6 Fast processing of auditory input
6.7 Syntactic categories and knowledge representation
6.8 Constructions and long range dependencies
6.8.1 Constructions and plans for action
6.8.2 Syntax, navigation and space

7 Gene-Language Coevolution

7.1 Fast biological adaptation to culture
7.2 Phenotype changes -- Big brains
7.3 Genotype changes -- selection or drift?
7.4 The unique symbolic niche
7.4.1 Relaxation of constraints
7.4.2 Niche construction and positive selection
7.4.3 Metarepresentation and semantic Ascent
7.5 Learning and Innateness

8 One Word, Two Words, ...

8.1 Syntax evolved gradually
8.2 One-word utterances express propositions
8.3 Shades of protolanguage
8.4 Packaging in sentence-like units
8.5 Synthetic and analytic routes to syntax

9 Grammaticalization

9.1 Setting: in and out of Africa
9.2 Introducing grammaticalization
9.3 Topics give rise to nouns
9.4 Topics give rise to Subjects
9.5 Emergence of more specific word classes
9.6 Morphologization
9.7 Cognitive and social requirements for grammaticalization