The Problem Of “Modality Transition” In Gestural Primacy Hypotheses In Language Evolution: Towards Multimodal Hypotheses


language evolution
gestural protolanguage
modality transition problem
multimodal hypotheses


In our paper we review the gestural primacy hypotheses in language evolution, starting with the discussion of the historical advocates of this approach and concluding with the contemporary arguments, derived from empirical research in various fields of study. Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the gestural scenarios we point to their main problem, namely their inability to account for the transition from a mainly visual to a mainly vocal modality (the so called “modality transition problem”). Subsequently, we discuss several potential solutions to this problem, and arrive at a conclusion that the most satisfying option is the multimodal perspective, which posits that language evolved as a bimodal system, with the vocal and visual modalities very closely integrated from the very early stages.