David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
Learn more about PhilPapers
Minds and Machines 9 (3):309-346 (1999)
It is commonly argued that the rules of language, as distinct from its semantic features, are the characteristics which most clearly distinguish language from the communication systems of other species. A number of linguists (e.g., Chomsky 1972, 1980; Pinker 1994) have suggested that the universal features of grammar (UG) are unique human adaptations showing no evolutionary continuities with any other species. However, recent summaries of the substantive features of UG are quite remarkable in the very general nature of the features proposed. While the syntax of any given language can be quite complex, the specific rules vary so much between languages that the truly universal (i.e. innate) aspects of grammar are not complex at all. In fact, these features most closely resemble a set of general descriptions of our richly complex semantic cognition, and not a list of specific rules. General principles of the evolutionary process suggest that syntax is more properly understood as an emergent characteristic of the explosion of semantic complexity that occurred during hominid evolution. It is argued that grammatical rules used in given languages are likely to be simply conventionalized, invented features of language, and not the result of an innate, grammar-specific module. The grammatical and syntactic regularities that are found across languages occur simply because all languages attempt to communicate the same sorts of semantic information
|Keywords||language grammar syntax semantics evolution emergence brain size|
|Categories||categorize this paper)|
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
Patrik N. Juslin & Daniel Västfjäll (2008). Emotional Responses to Music: The Need to Consider Underlying Mechanisms. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31 (5):559-575.
Morten H. Christiansen & Nick Chater (2008). Language as Shaped by the Brain. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31 (5):489-509.
Similar books and articles
P. Thomas Schoenemann (1999). Syntax as an Emergent Characteristic of the Evolution of Semantic Complexity. Minds and Machines 9 (3):309-346.
J. E. Miller (1985). Semantics and Syntax: Parallels and Connections. Cambridge University Press.
Denis Bouchard (1995). The Semantics of Syntax: A Minimalist Approach to Grammar. University of Chicago Press.
Adam Nowaczyk (2009). Tarskiego pojęcie prawdy zrelatywizowane do języka. Filozofia Nauki 1.
M. Dolores Jiménez López (2006). A Grammar Systems Approach to Natural Language Grammar. Linguistics and Philosophy 29 (4):419 - 454.
Ray Jackendoff (2003). Précis of Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution,. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 26 (6):651-665.
Emmon Bach, ACTL Semantics: Compositionality and Morphosemantics: I: Syntactic and Semantic Assumptions: Compositionality.
Xiaomei Yang (2011). Do Differences in Grammatical Form Between Languages Explain Differences in Ontology Between Different Philosophical Traditions?: A Critique of the Mass-Noun Hypothesis. Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 10 (2):149-166.
Wolfram Hinzen (2013). Narrow Syntax and the Language of Thought. Philosophical Psychology 26 (1):1-23.
William P. Bechtel (1996). What Knowledge Must Be in the Head in Order to Acquire Language. In B. Velichkovsky & Duane M. Rumbaugh (eds.), Communicating Meaning: The Evolution and Development of Language. Hillsdale, Nj: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. 45.
Yael Ravin (1990). Lexical Semantics Without Thematic Roles. Oxford University Press.
Kent Johnson & Ernie Lepore (2002). Does Syntax Reveal Semantics? A Case Study of Complex Demonstratives. Noûs 36 (s16):17 - 41.
Pieter A. M. Seuren (1996). Semantic Syntax. Blackwell.
Terence E. Horgan & John L. Tienson (2006). Cognition Needs Syntax but Not Rules. In Robert J. Stainton (ed.), Contemporary Debates in Cognitive Science. Malden MA: Blackwell Publishing. 147--158.
Added to index2010-09-01
Total downloads8 ( #192,020 of 1,409,982 )
Recent downloads (6 months)1 ( #176,758 of 1,409,982 )
How can I increase my downloads?