Centre for Language Evolution Studies

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Pantomime in language evolution: Expressive potential and structural characteristics of bodily mimetic acts

Agreement Number Source Programme Principal Investigator Years
UMO-2017/27/B/HS2/00642 National Science Centre (www.ncn.gov.pl) Opus 14 Przemysław Żywiczyński 2018–2021

About the project

The aim of this project is to conduct a systematic analysis of the communicative and structural properties of pantomime, in the light of leading language evolution theories. Pantomime is defined here as whole-body mimetic communication (Donald 1991, Zlatev 2014), in a way distinct from other uses of this term, e.g. as a theatrical genre (cf. the discussion in Żywiczyński et al. 2018). The specific hypotheses concern the expressive potential of pantomime and the dynamic of its transformation into a conventionalised system of communication. Such an understanding of pantomime and the specific hypotheses find a strong rationale in the most recent literature in the field of language evolution research.


Żywiczyński, P., Wacewicz, S., Lister, C. (2021). Pantomimic fossils in modern human communication. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 376(1824), 20200204.

Wacewicz, S., Żywiczyński, P. (2021). Pantomimic conceptions of language origins. In Gontier, Lock, Sinha (eds.) Handbook of Human Symbolic Evolution. Oxford: OUP. DOI 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198813781.013.30

Zlatev, J., Żywiczyński, P., Wacewicz, S. (2020). Pantomime as the original human-specific semiotic system. Journal of Language Evolution 5(2) 156–174, DOI 10.1093/jole/lzaa006

Żywiczyński, P. (2019). Biological Evolution, Cultural Evolution and the Evolution of Language. Review of Daniel Dennett’s From Bacteria to Bach and Back. Theoria et Historia Scientiarum16, 169-191.

Żywiczyński, P. (in press). Hipotezy powstania języka a problem prozodii”. Logopedia.

Conference presentations and seminars

Konferencja Polskiego Towarzystwa Nauk o Człowieku i Ewolucji, Warszawa 2426.09.2018,The syntax of pantomime and its influence on comprehension”, Monika Boruta, Marek Placiński

Social Models of Meaning Acquisition Workshop, Warszawa 23-23.05.2019, The problem of conventionality and iconicity in gestural hypotheses”, Przemysław Żywiczyński, Sławomir Wacewicz, Jordan Zlatev

48th Poznań Linguistic Meeting , Poznań 13-15.09.2018, How research on language evolution contributes to linguistics”, Przemysław Żywiczyński

ISGS 8 – 8th Conference of the International Society for Gesture Studies, Capetown 4-8.07.2018, Pantomime and perspective-taking in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder”, Sławomir Wacewicz, Przemysław Żywiczyński, Franceso Ferretti

Protolang 6, Lizbona 9-13.09, Pantomimic communication: the problem non-conventionality vs. culture-specificity“, Przemysław Żywiczyński, Sławomir Wacewicz

HOLO2019 – Internationall Symposium on Human Origins and Language Origins, Changsha (China), 18-20.10.2019, “Pantomime in language origins: Two types with distinct design specifications and evolutionary trajectories”, Sławomir Wacewicz, Przemysław Żywiczyński

Protolang 6, “Pantomime” special session organised by Przemysław Żywiczyński, Sławomir Wacewicz: https://sites.google.com/view/protolang-6/symposia/żywiczynski-wacewicz