Shared Intentionality as a Central Feature in the Emergence of Modern Humans: Some Preconditions of that Feature and Implications for Language Origination
Michael Tomasello has proposed that a significant difference between modern humans and closely related species is that members of the other species can grasp the intentions of others while modern humans are capable not only of grasping the intentions of others but also of sharing intentions with one another, thereby enabling a massive degree of cooperative activity. This is the Shared Intentionality Hypothesis. While the obvious advantage of the ability to share intentions with others is cooperative behavior and action, language remains key to the explosion of cooperative behavior in modern humans. This paper considers dimensions of the Shared Intentionality Hypothesis with special reference to the origination of (modern) human languages, where these are understood as complex social institutions that manifest shared linguistic intentionality and concomitant cooperative linguistic behavior. In particular, the paper considers what conditions must be satisfied over and above those required for merely grasping the intentions of others in order for shared intentionality of the linguistic sort to be possible as well as what implications for language origination are suggested by the Shared Intentionality Hypothesis.
Keywords: Tomasello, Cooperative Behavior, Modern Humans, Shared Intentionality, Displacement, Counterfactual Thinking
Dr. Rita Nolan
Professor, Department of Philosophy, State University of New York at Stony Brook