Chemiosemiosis and Complex Patterned Signals: A Chemosemiotic Hypothesis of Language Evolution

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Olfaction, as a semiotic modality, receives relatively less attention than other sensory modalities. Howe-ver, chemiosemiosis and semiochemicals are fundamental components of zoosemiosis, occurring across animal taxonomic groups. Indeed, olfaction is thought to be one of the most ancient sensory modalities from an evolu-tionary perspective and significantly, even unicellular organisms, such as the bacterium Escherichia coli, utilize a form of chemiosemiosis when foraging for nutrients, as part of a process known as ‘chemotaxis’. Further, many taxonomic groups have evolved to produce dedicated ‘semiochemicals’ (often known as pheromones or allomo-nes) which have the sole purpose of being diffused into the environment as a social signal. In this paper, I highlight the importance of Umwelt theory when studying animal communication, by reviewing the less conspicuous and intuitive chemiosemiotic modality, across animal taxa. I then go on to discuss chemiosemiosis within a linguistic framework and argue that complex pattern recognition underpins linguistic theory. Thus, I explore the concept that chemiosemiosis has features in common with language, when the factor of time, in the transmission and decoding of a signal, is taken into account. Moreover, I provide discursive evidence in support of a unified theory of sensory perception, based on structural and functional aspects of signal transmission and cognitive complex pattern recognition. I conclude by proposing a chemosemiotic hypothesis of language evolution
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-24
Number of pages15
JournalLinguistic Frontiers
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2021


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