A recent research by Rizzolatti et al, has once again come up with exciting new evidence that may be construed as evidence for the linkage between mirror neuron system in humans and the evolution of language.
This study has been able to establish that the same pre-motor cortical areas are engaged when one is performing an action like kicking as well as when one is just listening to the word ‘kicking’. This effect is found only for literal action words and not the same word ‘kicking’ when used metaphorically as in “kicking off”.
It is just a little stretch of imagination from here to making case for the link between language and mirror neurons.
Specifically, it is plausible, that when the mirror neurons gave an ability to humans to represent an action (irrespective of whether it was performed by self or by others) in the brain, then this capacity to abstract an action from its performer may have been the beginning of the symbolic representation capacity whereby a symbol that is remote from the original object can represent that object. This symbolic capacity to represent activation in brain region with both an action performed by self as well as others may have later lead to the first linguistic semantic words that would have been associated with such representations. The data that the action words activate the same pre motor regions as actual actions makes this hypothesis more attractive.
I know that mirror neurons are not exactly that popular in blogosphere, but still some food for thought.