, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 253–267 | Cite as

If I could talk to the animals

Gregory Radick: The simian tongue: The long debate about animal language. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2007, 578pp, $45.00 HB
  • Thomas Suddendorf
  • Mark E. Borrello
  • Colin Allen
  • Gregory Radick
Book Symposium

Thomas Suddendorf

The language faculty, or better the apparent lack of anything quite like human language in other animals, is one of the most prominent phenomenon that Darwin’s theory of evolution has struggled to explain. Ever since Max Müller’s arguments for the language barrier in the 1860s, there have been heated debates about how natural selection could have produced human language, despite the famous attempt of the Société de Linguistique de Paris to ban such discussion in 1866. Darwin’s (1859) bold claim that each human psychological faculty was acquired by gradation seemed to imply that there should be closely related animals with some capacities that could be identified as language precursors. Indeed, Darwin himself wrote in a letter to Gray about Müller that: “I wish someone would keep a lot of the most noisy monkeys, half free and study the means of communication” (see Radick, 31). Little in fact was known about primate communication, and thus it was possible that the...


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas Suddendorf
    • 1
  • Mark E. Borrello
    • 2
  • Colin Allen
    • 3
  • Gregory Radick
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Psychology, University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Program in the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, Department of Ecology Evolution and BehaviorUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Department of History and Philosophy of ScienceCollege of Arts and Sciences, Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  4. 4.Centre for History and Philosophy of Science, Department of PhilosophyUniversity of LeedsLeedsUK

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