Humans alone acquire language. According to one influen- tial school of thought, we do this because we possess a uniquely human ability to act with and attribute “Gricean” communicative intentions. A challenge for this view is that attributing communicative intent seems to require cognitive abilities that infant language learners lack. After considering a range of responses to this challenge, I argue that infant languagedevelopment can be explained, because Gricean communication is cognitively less demanding than many (...) suppose. However, a consequence of this is that abilities for Gricean communication are unlikely to be uniquely human. (shrink)
The question of languagedevelopment and origin is a subject that is vital to our understanding of what it means to be human. This is reflected in the large range of academic disciplines that are dedicated to the subject. Languagedevelopment has in particular been related to studies in cognitive capacity and the ability for mind reading, often termed a theory of mind. The Social Brain Hypothesis has been the only attempt to correlate a cognitive scale (...) of complexity incorporating a theory of mind and intentionality orders to the archaeological record and hominin phylogeny. However, a method is still lacking that allows a correlation of the orders of intentionality to the archaeological signatures that represent the physical expression of hominin behaviour. This paper is primarily concerned with introducing a new theoretical perspective – termed the identity model – which facilitates such a correlation between a scale of cognitive acuity, hominin behaviour through the archaeological record and subsequently languagedevelopment within an evolutionary context. (shrink)
Orienting biases for speech may provide a foundation for languagedevelopment. Although human infants show a bias for listening to speech from birth, the relation of a speech bias to later languagedevelopment has not been established. Here, we examine whether infants' attention to speech directly predicts expressive vocabulary. Infants listened to speech or non-speech in a preferential listening procedure. Results show that infants' attention to speech at 12 months significantly predicted expressive vocabulary at 18 months, (...) while indices of general development did not. No predictive relationships were found for infants' attention to non-speech, or overall attention to sounds, suggesting that the relationship between speech and expressive vocabulary was not a function of infants' general attentiveness. Potentially ancient evolutionary perceptual capacities such as biases for conspecific vocalizations may provide a foundation for proficiency in formal systems such language, much like the approximate number sense may provide a foundation for formal mathematics. (shrink)
Most theories of learning would predict a gradual acquisition and refinement of skills as learning progresses, and while some highlight exponential growth, this fails to explain why natural cognitive development typically progresses in stages. Models that do span multiple developmental stages typically have parameters to “switch” between stages. We argue that by taking an embodied view, the interaction between learning mechanisms, the resulting behavior of the agent, and the opportunities for learning that the environment provides can account for the (...) stage-wise development of cognitive abilities. We summarize work relevant to this hypothesis and suggest two simple mechanisms that account for some developmental transitions: neural readiness focuses on changes in the neural substrate resulting from ongoing learning, and perceptual readiness focuses on the perceptual requirements for learning new tasks. Previous work has demonstrated these mechanisms in replications of a wide variety of infant language experiments, spanning multiple developmental stages. Here we piece this work together as a single model of ongoing learning with no parameter changes at all. The model, an instance of the Epigenetic Robotics Architecture embodied on the iCub humanoid robot, exhibits ongoing multi-stage development while learning pre-linguistic and then basic language skills. (shrink)
Modeling of evolution and development of language has principally utilized mature units of spoken language, phonemes and words, as both targets and inputs. This approach cannot address the earliest phases of development because young infants are unable to produce such language features. We argue that units of early vocal development—protophones and their primitive illocutionary/perlocutionary forces—should be targeted in evolutionary modeling because they suggest likely units of hominin vocalization/communication shortly after the split from the chimpanzee/bonobo (...) lineage, and because early development of spontaneous vocal capability is a logically necessary step toward vocal language, a root capability without which other crucial steps toward vocal language capability are impossible. Modeling of language evolution/development must account for dynamic change in early communicative units of form/function across time. We argue for interactive contributions of sender/infants and receiver/caregivers in a feedback loop involving both development and evolution and propose to begin computational modeling at the hominin break from the primate communicative background. (shrink)
Evolutionary developmental systems theory stresses that selection pressures operate on entire developmental systems rather than just genes. This study extends this approach to language evolution, arguing that selection pressure may operate on two quasi-independent timescales. First, children clearly must acquire language successfully and evolution must equip them with the tools to do so. Second, while this is developing, they must also communicate with others in the moment using partially developed knowledge. These pressures may require different solutions, and their (...) combination may underlie the evolution of complex mechanisms for languagedevelopment and processing. I present two case studies to illustrate how the demands of both real-time communication and language acquisition may be subtly different. The first case study examines infant-directed speech. A recent view is that IDS underwent cultural to statistical learning mechanisms that infants use to acquire the speech categories of their language. However, recent data suggest is it may not have evolved to enhance development, but rather to serve a more real-time communicative function. The second case study examines the argument for seemingly specialized mechanisms for learning word meanings. Both behavioral and computational work suggest that learning may be much slower and served by general-purpose mechanisms like associative learning. Fast-mapping, then, may be a real-time process meant to serve immediate communication, not learning, by augmenting incomplete vocabulary knowledge with constraints from the current context. Together, these studies suggest that evolutionary accounts consider selection pressure arising from both real-time communicative demands and from the need for accurate languagedevelopment. (shrink)
This paper recommends that experimental analysts of languagedevelopment abandon for the purposes of experimental inquiry both the term "language" and the concept it designates. In support of this recommendation, the paper dis cusses the multiple meanings of "language," the proposal that "language" refers to behavior, the implicit acceptance by behavior analysts of psycholinguistic thought despite their ostensible rejection of it, and the nature of language as a subject matter. In addition, the nature of (...) common-sense psychology, the domain of behavior analysis, the formal nature of Chomskyan linguistics, and the rela tion between psychology and behavior analysis are discussed. (shrink)
This paper presents the Functional/Emotional approach to languagedevelopment, which explains the process leading up to the core capacities necessary for language ; shows how this process leads to the formation of internal symbols; and how it shapes and is shaped by the child’s development of language. The heart of this approach is that, through a series of affective transformations, a child develops these core capacities and the capacity to form meaningful symbols. Far from being (...) a sudden jump, the transition from pre-symbolic communication to language is enabled by the advances taking place in the child’s affective gesturing. (shrink)
Languagedevelopment is one of the major battle grounds within the humanities and sciences. This book presents, for the first time, an impartial account of the three dominant theories of languagedevelopment. Written to be accessible for those within developmental psychology, philosophy, and linguistics, the book provides the reader with the information they need in order make up their own mind about this much debated issue.
Although the target article emphasizes the important role of prediction in language use, prediction may well also play a key role in the initial formation of linguistic representations, that is, in languagedevelopment. We outline the role of prediction in three relevant language-learning domains: transitional probabilities, statistical preemption, and construction learning.
This paper presents the Functional/Emotional approach to languagedevelopment, which explains the process leading up to the core capacities necessary for language; shows how this process leads to the formation of internal symbols; and how it shapes and is shaped by the child’s development of language.
The notion that manual gestures played an important role in the evolution of human language was strengthened by the discovery of mirror neurons in monkey area F5, the proposed homologue of human Broca's area. This idea is central to the thesis developed by Arbib, and lending further support to a link between motor resonance mechanisms and language/communication development is the case of autism and congenital blindness. We provide an account of how these conditions may relate to the (...) aforementioned theory. (shrink)
Considering the close relation between language and theory of mind in development and their tight connection in social behavior, it is no big leap to claim that the two capacities have been related in evolution as well. But what is the exact relation between them? This paper attempts to clear a path toward an answer. I consider several possible relations between the two faculties, bring conceptual arguments and empirical evidence to bear on them, and end up arguing for (...) a version of co-evolution. To model this co-evolution, we must distinguish between different stages or levels of language and theory of mind, which fueled each other’s evolution in a protracted escalation process. (shrink)
An influential view of the nature of the language system is that of an evolved biological system in which a set of rules is combined with a lexicon that contains the words of the language together with a representation of their context. Alternative views, usually based on connectionist modeling, attempt to explain the structure of language on the basis of complex associative processes. Here, I put forward a third view that stresses experience-dependent structural development of the (...) brain circuits supporting language as a core principle of the organization of the language system. In this view, embodied in a recent neuroconstructivist neural network of past tense development and processing, initial domain-general predispositions enable the development of functionally specialized brain structures through interactions between experience-dependent brain development and statistical learning in a structured environment. Together, these processes shape a biological adult language system that appears to separate into distinct mechanism for processing rules and exceptions, whereas in reality those subsystems co-develop and interact closely. This view puts experience-dependent brain development in response to a specific language environment at the heart of understanding not only languagedevelopment but adult language processing as well. (shrink)
We review the relationships between language, inner speech, and cognitive control in children and young adults, focusing on the domain of cognitive flexibility. We address the role that inner speech plays in flexibly shifting between tasks, addressing whether it is used to represent task rules, provide a reminder of task order, or aid in task retrieval. We also consider whether the development of inner speech in childhood serves to drive the development of cognitive flexibility. We conclude that (...) there is a close association between inner speech and cognitive flexibility in both adults and children. Experimental work has begun to specify in detail the role that inner speech might play in adult performance, suggesting that language plays a facilitative but not essential role in representing and activating the relevant task set, processes that occur on both switch and nonswitch trials. While developmental studies suggest an increase in the spontaneous use of verbal strategies with age, implying an increase in top-down control during shifting, experimental work is needed to specify more precisely the nature and precise role that inner speech plays in the development of cognitive control through childhood. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to introduce Wittgenstein’s concept of the form of a language into geometry and to show how it can be used to achieve a better understanding of the development of geometry, from Desargues, Lobachevsky and Beltrami to Cayley, Klein and Poincaré. Thus this essay can be seen as an attempt to rehabilitate the Picture Theory of Meaning, from the Tractatus. Its basic idea is to use Picture Theory to understand the pictures of geometry. (...) I will try to show, that the historical evolution of geometry can be interpreted as the development of the form of its language. This confrontation of the Picture Theory with history of geometry sheds new light also on the ideas of Wittgenstein. (shrink)
The set of English modal verbs is widely recognised to communicate two broad clusters of meanings: epistemic and root modal meanings. A number of researchers have claimed that root meanings are acquired earlier than epistemic ones; this claim has subsequently been employed in the linguistics literature as an argument for the position that English modal verbs are polysemous (Sweetser 1990). In this paper I offer an alternative explanation for the later emergence of epistemic interpretations by liniking them to the (...) class='Hi'>development of the child's theory of mind (Wellman 1990). If correct, this hypothesis might have important implications for the shape of the semantics of modal verbs. (shrink)
This is an entirely new translation of one of the fundamental works in the development of the study of language. Published in 1836, it formed the general introduction to Wilhelm von Humboldt's three-volume treatise on the Kawi language of Java. It is the final statement of his lifelong study of the nature of language, and presents a survey of a great many languages, exploring ways in which their various grammatical structures make them more or less suitable (...) as vehicles of thought and cultural development. Empirically wide-ranging - von Humboldt goes far beyond the Indo-European family of languages - it remains one of the most interesting and important attempts to draw philosophical conclusions from comparative linguistics. (shrink)
It is widely assumed in the developmental literature that certain classes of modal expression appear later in language acquisition than others; specifically, epistemic interpretations lag behind non-epistemic interpretations. An explanation for these findings is proposed in terms of the child’s developing theory of mind, i.e. the ability to attribute to oneself and others mental representations, and to reason inferentially about them. It is hypothesized that epistemic modality crucially implicates theory-of-mind abilities and is therefore expected to depend on prior developments (...) in the child's ability to handle representations of mental representations. In support of this hypothesis, it is shown that autistic individuals have difficulty with epistemics. (shrink)
In her Behavioral and Brain Sciences target article, Greenfield (1991) proposed that early in a child's development Broca's area may serve the dual function of coordinating object assembly and organizing the production of structured utterances. As development progresses, the upper and lower regions of Broca's area become increasingly specialized for motor coordination and speech, respectively. This commentary presents a connectionist simulation of aspects of this proposal. The results of the simulation confirm the main thrust of Greenfield's argument and (...) suggest that an important impetus for the developmental differentiation in Broca's area may be the increasing complexity of the computational demands made upon it. (shrink)
This article describes the development and validation of a diagnostic test of German and its integration in a programme of formative assessment during a one-year initial teacher-training course. The test focuses on linguistic aspects that cause difficulty for trainee teachers of German as a foreign language and assesses implicit and explicit grammatical knowledge as well as students' confidence in this knowledge. Administration of the test to 57 German speakers in four groups (first-year undergraduates, fourth-year undergraduates, postgraduate trainees, and (...) native speakers) provided evidence of its reliability and validity. (shrink)
We add evidence in support of Corballis's gestural theory of language. Using transcranial magnetic stimulation, we found that productive and receptive linguistic tasks excite the motor cortices for both hands. This indicates that the language and the hand motor systems are still tightly linked in modern man. The bilaterality of the effect, however, implies that lateralisation is a secondary issue.
In an 1896 article for Kindergarten Magazine, John Dewey explained that the "child comes to school to do; to cook, to sew, to work with wood and tools in simple constructive acts; within and about these acts cluster the studies—writing, reading, arithmetic, etc."1 With this statement, Dewey encapsulated a key principle in the elementary education pedagogy he was at that time developing at the University of Chicago's Laboratory School. This school, which Dewey founded in 1896, explicitly experimented with new pedagogical (...) techniques. Ultimately, the Laboratory School's emphasis on occupations would become the most distinctive aspect of Dewey's and his colleagues' experimentation with educational... (shrink)
In Language and the Learning Curve, a leading researcher in the field offers a radical new view of languagedevelopment, unusual in its combination of Chomskian linguistics and learning theory. Stimulating and accessible, it is an important new work that challenges many of our usual assumptions about syntactic development.