Biosemiotics 7 (1):11-27 (2014)

James (J.T.M.) Miller
Durham University
This paper will discuss the origin of the human mind, and the qualitative discontinuity between human and animal cognition. We locate the source of this discontinuity within the language faculty, and thus take the origin of the mind to depend on the origin of the language faculty. We will look at one such proposal put forward by Hauser et al. (Science 298:1569-1579, 2002), which takes the evolution of a Merge trait (recursion) to solely explain the differences between human and animal cognition. We argue that the Merge-only hypothesis fails to account for various aspects of the human mind. Instead we propose that the process of lexicalisation is also unique to humans, and that this process is key to explaining the vast qualitative differences. We will argue that lexicalisation is a process through which concepts are reformatted to be able to take on semantic features and to take part in grammatical relations. These are both necessary conditions for a grammatical mind and the increased ability to express conceptual content. We therefore propose a possible explanans for the discontinuity between humans and animals, namely that merge with lexicalisation (and consequently semantic features and grammatical relations) is a minimal requirement for the human mind
Keywords Discontinuity  Merge-only hypothesis  Semantic features  Agreement  Lexicalisation
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DOI 10.1007/s12304-013-9189-1
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References found in this work BETA

The Language of Thought.Jerry A. Fodor - 1975 - Harvard University Press.
The Origin of Concepts.Susan Carey - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
Origins of Objectivity.Tyler Burge - 2010 - Oxford University Press.

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Citations of this work BETA

Language and Ontological Emergence.J. T. M. Miller - 2017 - Philosophica 91 (1):105-143.

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