Roots of language
Derek Bickerton



digital: 978-3-946234-08-1
ISBN-13 hardcover: 978-3-946234-09-8
ISBN-13 softcover: 978-3-946234-10-4
ISBN-13 softcover-US: 978-1-523647-15-6


DOI: 10.17169/langsci.b91.109
Published: 2016-02-03

Cite as

Bickerton, Derek. 2016. Roots of language (Classics in Linguistics 3). Berlin: Language Science Press.
author = {Bickerton, Derek},
title = {Roots of language},
year = {2016},
series = {classics},
number = {3},
address = {Berlin},
publisher = {Language Science Press}


  • Stephanie Natolo
  • Joseph T. Farquharson
  • Stefan Hartmann
  • Andreea Calude
  • Joseph P. DeVeaugh-Geiss
  • Marijana Janjic
  • Conor Pyle
  • Jonathan Brindle
  • George Krasovitskiy
  • Alec Shaw
  • Pedro Tiago Martins


  • Sebastian Nordhoff
  • Felix Kopecky

About this book

Roots of language was originally published in 1981 by Karoma Press (Ann Arbor). It was the first work to systematically develop a theory first suggested by Coelho in the late nineteenth century: that the creation of creole languages somehow reflected universal properties of language. The book also proposed that the same set of properties would be found to emerge in normal first-language acquisition and must have emerged in the original evolution of language. These proposals, some of which were elaborated in an article in Behavioral and Brain Sciences (1984), were immediately controversial and gave rise to a great deal of subsequent research in creoles, much of it aimed at rebutting the theory. The book also served to legitimize and stimulate research in language evolution, a topic regarded as off-limits by linguists for over a century. The present edition contains a foreword by the author bringing the theory up to date; a fuller exposition of many of its aspects can be found in the author’s most recent work, More than nature needs (Harvard University Press, 2014).

About Derek Bickerton

Derek Bickerton is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at the University of Hawaii. He has carried out extensive research into creole languages in Guyana, Hawaii and the Seychelles. In recent years he has written extensively on the evolution of language. His publications include Dynamics of a creole system (1975), Language and species (1990), Language and human behavior (1995) and Adam’s tongue (2008). He has also co-edited volumes on the evolution of syntax (2009) and protolanguage (2010).