What is it about?

This chapter examines the evolution of number concept, via the ability to conceive of and use other representations of quantity. It approaches the evolution of number concept via the development of the concept in children. It finds that the child's acquisition of the concept leans heavily on the language scaffold of labelling. It considers the notion that the key in the child's construction of the number concept is the memorized set of words that constitutes the numeral list. This, in turn, raises the possibility that the presence of number concept might correlate with, and consequently be evidence for, the presence of language, provided that the presence of number in deep prehistory could be documented. It is possible that the evolutionary development of an integer concept may differ from its development in children. Hence, the chapter turns to the ethnographic and archaeological records for evidence about its evolutionary development.

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I am interested in how societies become numerate by using and recruiting material forms into the cognitive system for numbers over generations of collaborative effort. The manuovisually engaged domain of material forms is a primary mechanism for realizing and elaborating numerical concepts. I also look at the effect this elaborational mechanism has on conceptual content, and what this might augur about the future of human cognition.

Dr. Karenleigh A. Overmann
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

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This page is a summary of: The archaeology of number concept and its implications for the evolution of language, July 2013, Oxford University Press (OUP), DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199654840.003.0007.
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