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Gesture in evolutionary perspective

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Gesture is mostly a function of the upper limbs of Homo sapiens and is constrained by the skeleton and neuromuscular apparatus which have evolved under the selection pressures of arboreal environments. This article raises the issue of the early adaptations which determined the range of movements which made possible the emergence of gesture both technical and cultural. It addresses the problem of explaining in evolutionary terms the multi-functionality of the human hand and arm. It suggests that once early humans became bipedal further pressures combined to conserve and expand the range of adaptations afforded by the upper limbs through selection processes such as exaptation, niche construction and the Baldwin effect. It concludes that a theory of gesture must integrate evolutionary and developmental considerations.

Keywords: bipedalism; display; evolution; exaptation; gesture; thermoregulation

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/gest.6.2.04bou

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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