daniel cloud book

"A superbly original book on an important topic and the most exciting piece of philosophy I’ve read in a long time. Cloud builds on major philosophical work by David Lewis and Brian Skyrms to provide a serious account of the evolution of language that both recognizes the long and complex process that links the prior state (nothing like language at all) to the end state (language of the kinds now in existence) and that responds to the points of greatest difficulty in that process."

Philip Kitcher, John Dewey Professor of Philosophy, Columbia University

"Starting with David Lewis and Brian Skyrms, Daniel Cloud has done much more than given us a 'just so story' about the evolution of language. He has identified the real obstacles it had to surmount and creatively drawn on the best hard science to show how it must have overcome them."

Alex Rosenberg, Duke University

"This stimulating and engagingly-written book lucidly defends a remarkable proposal. According to it, just as a breeder of honeybees makes choices that influence the evolution of domesticated bees, all of us -- by choosing which words and practices to employ, and which ones to scowl, chuckle, or roll our eyes at -- actively influence the evolution of our language and culture."

Adam Elga, Princeton University

"Daniel Cloud’s The Domestication of Language brings an important new perspective to an extraordinarily difficult and important topic: the evolution of language. In contrast to almost everyone else, he focuses on the evolution of words and their meanings; on how that system as a whole expands, and becomes adjusted to the demands on the local environment, and on how children, entering that environment, are cued and supported while they acquire their first critical competences. And while language is built by cultural evolution, variation is generated not by dumb luck but intelligent tinkering. Language is the result of intelligence: an invented social and communicative technology; not invented by a Promethean genius, but multi-generationally by us all, as we respond to and experiment in our specific situations, keeping what worked. Hence the “Domestication”: over many generations we have converted our original wild, native endowment of communicative capacity to something new, special, transforming."

Kim Sterelny, Australian National University

"The Domestication of Language is a tour de force. Drawing on recent work in the philosophy of language, evolutionary biology and ethology, Daniel Cloud has fashioned a new account of the origins of our capacity for linguistic communication. Cloud’s book is both a wonderfully readable introduction to the topic and a bold and original work of scholarship. Any attempt to reconstruct the origins of language will be speculative; but this is the best sort of speculation: rigorous, scientifically informed, strikingly imaginative and at the same time utterly plausible."

Gideon Rosen, Stuart Professor of Philosophy, Princeton University