Environmental adaptation in language: Spatial grammar, landscape knowledge and human survival

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

We argue that the human ability to linguistically describe spatial locations, relations and paths is likely to contribute importantly to human survival, and that consequently the relation between linguistic elements and structures used in spatial reference, and the environment in which humans navigate, ought to be of concern for evolutionary studies of language. We make the case for systematically studying the correspondences between the structures of human spatial language and the spatially structured practices of human groups within specific landscapes, and for considering this relation within a diachronic framework, as a process of cultural and linguistic adaptation to the physical environment. The last section presents the research design of the Nahuatl Space Project, which investigates the possibility of environmental adaptation of spatial language in four varieties of the Nahuan languages of Mexico.
Original languageDanish
JournalLanguage Dynamics and Change
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)230-258
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - 2020

ID: 241994861