The trait of human language: Lessons from the canal boat children of England

Biology and Philosophy 23 (3):347-361 (2008)
Abstract
To fully understand human language, an evolved trait that develops in the young without formal instruction, it must be possible to observe language that has not been influenced by instruction. But in modern societies, much of the language that is used, and most of the language that is measured, is confounded by literacy and academic training. This diverts empirical attention from natural habits of speech, causing theorists to miss critical features of linguistic practice. To dramatize this point, I examine data from a special population––the canal boat children of early twentieth century England––whose language developed without academic influence, but was evaluated using instruments designed primarily for academic use. These data, taken together with related research, suggest that formal instruction can convert language from a purely biological trait that was selected, to a talent that was instructed, while altering the users of language themselves. I then review research indicating that formal instruction can also mask or distort inter-sexual differences in the social applications of language, a significant handicap to evolutionary theorizing. I conclude that if biological theories of language are to succeed, they must explain the spontaneous speaking practices of naturally behaving individuals.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
 
Download options
PhilPapers Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 11,371
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Similar books and articles
Analytics

Monthly downloads

Added to index

2009-01-28

Total downloads

16 ( #104,157 of 1,102,856 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

2 ( #183,068 of 1,102,856 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature


Discussion
Start a new thread
Order:
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.