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Darwin Correspondence Project

key letters


Friedrich Max-Müller
Friedrich Max-Müller, by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), circa 1856, NPG P7(25)
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Language: key letters

How and why language evolved bears on larger questions about the evolution of the human species, and the relationship between man and animals. Darwin presented his views on the development of human speech from animal sounds in The Descent of Man (1871), but he had been interested in the origin of language since the late 1830s. Darwin’s correspondence reveals the scope of his thinking about the evolution of language, how his views changed over time, and the array of people—from expert linguists, to naval officers, to bankers—with whom he exchanged information and ideas.

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