This paper investigates the impact of The Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871) on the linguistic debates of Darwin’s time, through a reconstruction of the positions both of his followers (Huxley, Lyell, Schleicher, Haeckel) and his opponents (amongst which the German philologist Max Müller was particularly relentless). The support received by Darwin from the North-American linguist W.D. Whitney is also discussed. Darwin’s views on language origins are a topic of great theoretical interest. In fact, though fitting language into the framework of natural selection, he avoids all risks of reductionism.
Keywords: Coevolution, Darwin, Language, Natural selection, Non-human animals, Linguistics