The faculty of language: what's special about it?

Cognition 95 (2):201-236 (2005)
Abstract
We examine the question of which aspects of language are uniquely human and uniquely linguistic in light of recent suggestions by Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch that the only such aspect is syntactic recursion, the rest of language being either specific to humans but not to language (e.g. words and concepts) or not specific to humans (e.g. speech perception). We find the hypothesis problematic. It ignores the many aspects of grammar that are not recursive, such as phonology, morphology, case, agreement, and many properties of words. It is inconsistent with the anatomy and neural control of the human vocal tract. And it is weakened by experiments suggesting that speech perception cannot be reduced to primate audition, that word learning cannot be reduced to fact learning, and that at least one gene involved in speech and language was evolutionarily selected in the human lineage but is not specific to recursion. The recursion-only claim, we suggest, is motivated by Chomsky’s recent approach to syntax, the Minimalist Program, which de-emphasizes the same aspects of language. The approach, however, is sufficiently problematic that it cannot be used to support claims about evolution. We contest related arguments that language is not an adaptation, namely that it is “perfect,” non-redundant, unusable in any partial form, and badly designed for..
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DOI 10.1016/j.cognition.2004.08.004
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References found in this work BETA
Natural Language and Natural Selection.Steven Pinker & Paul Bloom - 1990 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 13 (4):707-27.
Towards a Functional Neuroanatomy of Speech Perception.Gregory Hickok & David Poeppel - 2000 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4 (4):131-138.
Constructions: A New Theoretical Approach to Language.Adele E. Goldberg - 2003 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 7 (5):219-224.

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Citations of this work BETA
Language as Shaped by the Brain.Morten H. Christiansen & Nick Chater - 2008 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 31 (5):489-509.
Language as an Instrument of Thought.Eran Asoulin - 2016 - Glossa: A Journal of General Linguistics 1 (1):1-23.

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