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Abstract Schiefenhövel

For mobile organisms, orientation in space is vitally important. Forms of this basic capacity have, therefore, appeared early in evolution. Some forms of perceiving and processing spatial information will be described. Non-human primates exhibit effective patterns of spatial orientation, e.g. when they are exposed to experiments in which a human, whose movements can be observed by the apes, is hiding food in scattered places of a wide area. The animals have a rather precise spatial map in their brains which helps them to find the food. For humans, who also have well developed abilities to find their way in known and unknown space, clear-cut gender differences regarding strategies of spatial orientation have been described, which can be explained as evolved adaptations to different tasks existing in the Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness (EEA). The Polynesian settling of often very small islands in the vast Pacific Ocean, from Hawaii to Easter Island and New Zealand, is a very telling example of extraordinary performance in spatial orientation, made possible by a mix of intuitive and sophisticated (e.g. astronomical) ways of navigation. Towards the end of the paper, I will draw attention to the work of Sven Walter, who was able to show that, in the language of the Eipo in the Highlands of West-New Guinea, deictic terms exhibit a distinct correlation between phonem production (in the laryngeal space) and semantics (location in space). In this and other respects, words in the Eipo language are non-arbitrary, i.e. their phonetic characteristics follow (most likely evolved) psychological and linguistic principles, predisposing them to express specific semantic entities.