Michael Tomasello, co-director of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, and Paul Ibbotson, a lecturer in language development at the Open University in England, make the case in Scientific American that Noam Chomsky’s linguistic theories are being overturned.

Tomasello has developed a broader set of theories that go beyond linguistics alone to explain why humans stand out from other species—ideas related to the ability of our species to cooperate, based on work with children and apes. Watch Tomasello describe some of the antecedents of language in a University of Virginia Page-Barbour lecture in 2010: