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Folia Histórica del Nordeste

versión impresa ISSN 0325-8238versión On-line ISSN 2525-1627


SUGIYAMA, Michelle Scalise  y  MENDOZA, Marcela. Oral storytelling as a form of teaching in hunter-gatherer societies. Folia [online]. 2018, n.32, pp.35-55. ISSN 0325-8238.

Making a living by foraging requires extensive knowledge that cannot be acquired solely through personal experience by early adulthood. Social learning is hypothesized to have evolved in response to this necessity: acquiring knowledge from conspecifics is less dangerous and more efficient than acquiring it at first hand, and enabled the development of cumulative culture. Yet, little is known about the different ways in which practical knowledge was transmitted in forager societies. We argue that oral narrative was an important form of teaching among foragers. Our argument is based on Csibra & Gergely’s (2006) natural pedagogy, a set of ostensive-communicative behaviors that signal (i) intention to transmit generalizable knowledge and (ii) the intended recipient of that knowledge. Generalizable knowledge is information that can be applied beyond the present context, and ostensive-communicative behaviors include eye contact, gestures, and prosodic variation. We review ethno-linguistic evidence indicating that performed narratives meet the criteria of natural pedagogy, and should be considered as teaching in forager societies.

Palabras clave : Natural pedagogy; Storytelling; Ostensive communication; Hunter-gatherers; Paralinguistic communication.

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