The nature of the language faculty and its implications for evolution of language (Reply to Fitch, Hauser, and Chomsky)
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Cognition 97 (2):211-225 (2005)
In a continuation of the conversation with Fitch, Chomsky, and Hauser on the evolution of language, we examine their defense of the claim that the uniquely human, language-specific part of the language faculty (the “narrow language faculty”) consists only of recursion, and that this part cannot be considered an adaptation to communication. We argue that their characterization of the narrow language faculty is problematic for many reasons, including its dichotomization of cognitive capacities into those that are utterly unique and those that are identical to nonlinguistic or nonhuman capacities, omitting capacities that may have been substantially modified during human evolution. We also question their dichotomy of the current utility versus original function of a trait, which omits traits that are adaptations for current use, and their dichotomy of humans and animals, which conflates similarity due to common function and similarity due to inheritance from a recent common ancestor. We show that recursion, though absent from other animals’ communications systems, is found in visual cognition, hence cannot be the sole evolutionary development that granted language to humans. Finally, we note that despite Fitch et al.’s denial, their view of language evolution is tied to Chomsky’s conception of language itself, which identifies combinatorial productivity with a core of “narrow syntax.” An alternative conception, in which combinatoriality is spread across words and constructions, has both empirical advantages and greater evolutionary plausibility. q 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
|Keywords||No keywords specified (fix it)|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
|Through your library||Configure|
References found in this work BETA
No references found.
Citations of this work BETA
Christina Behme & H. S. (2008). Language Learning in Infancy: Does the Empirical Evidence Support a Domain Specific Language Acquisition Device? Philosophical Psychology 21 (5):641 – 671.
Gualtiero Piccinini (2011). Two Kinds of Concept: Implicit and Explicit. Dialogue 50 (1):179-193.
Christina Behme (2011). Language Universals. Philosophical Psychology 24 (6):867-871.
H. H. Pattee (2013). Epistemic, Evolutionary, and Physical Conditions for Biological Information. Biosemiotics 6 (1):9-31.
Similar books and articles
W. Tecumseh Fitch (2005). The Evolution of Language: A Comparative Review. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 20 (2-3):193-203.
Francis Y. Lin (1999). Chomsky on the 'Ordinary Language' View of Language. Synthese 120 (2):151-191.
John M. Collins (2005). Faculty Disputes. Mind and Language 19 (5):503-33.
Ray Jackendoff & Steven Pinker (2005). The Faculty of Language: What's Special About It? Cognition 95 (2):201-236.
Marc Hauser, Chomsky D., Fitch Noam & W. Tecumseh (2002). The Faculty of Language: What is It, Who has It, and How Did It Evolve? Science 298 (22):1569-1579.
Steven Pinker (2005). The Faculty of Language: What's Special About It? Cognition 95 (2):201-236.
W. Tecumseh Fitch, Marc Hauser, Chomsky D. & Noam (2005). The Evolution of the Language Faculty: Clarifications and Implications. Cognition 97:179-210.
Added to index2009-01-28
Total downloads58 ( #22,301 of 1,088,854 )
Recent downloads (6 months)1 ( #69,662 of 1,088,854 )
How can I increase my downloads?