The article analyzes the neural and functional grounding of language skills as well as their emergence in hominid evolution, hypothesizing stages leading from abilities known to exist in monkeys and apes and presumed to exist in our hominid ancestors right through to modern spoken and signed languages. The starting point is the observation that both premotor area F5 in monkeys and Broca's area in humans contain a “mirror system” active for both execution and observation of manual actions, and that F5 (...) and Broca's area are homologous brain regions. This grounded the mirror system hypothesis of Rizzolatti and Arbib (1998) which offers the mirror system for grasping as a key neural “missing link” between the abilities of our nonhuman ancestors of 20 million years ago and modern human language, with manual gestures rather than a system for vocal communication providing the initial seed for this evolutionary process. The present article, however, goes “beyond the mirror” to offer hypotheses on evolutionary changes within and outside the mirror systems which may have occurred to equip Homo sapiens with a language-ready brain. Crucial to the early stages of this progression is the mirror system for grasping and its extension to permit imitation. Imitation is seen as evolving via a so-called simple system such as that found in chimpanzees (which allows imitation of complex “object-oriented” sequences but only as the result of extensive practice) to a so-called complex system found in humans (which allows rapid imitation even of complex sequences, under appropriate conditions) which supports pantomime. This is hypothesized to have provided the substrate for the development of protosign, a combinatorially open repertoire of manual gestures, which then provides the scaffolding for the emergence of protospeech (which thus owes little to nonhuman vocalizations), with protosign and protospeech then developing in an expanding spiral. It is argued that these stages involve biological evolution of both brain and body. By contrast, it is argued that the progression from protosign and protospeech to languages with full-blown syntax and compositional semantics was a historical phenomenon in the development of Homo sapiens, involving few if any further biological changes. Key Words: gestures; hominids; language evolution; mirror system; neurolinguistics; primates; protolanguage; sign language; speech; vocalization. (shrink)
In this paper, we offer a Piagetian perspective on the construction of the logico-mathematical schemas which embody our knowledge of logic and mathematics. Logico-mathematical entities are tied to the subject's activities, yet are so constructed by reflective abstraction that they result from sensorimotor experience only via the construction of intermediate schemas of increasing abstraction. The axiom set does not exhaust the cognitive structure (schema network) which the mathematician thus acquires. We thus view truth not as something to be defined within (...) the closed world of a formal system but rather in terms of the schema network within which the formal system is embedded. We differ from Piaget in that we see mathematical knowledge as based on social processes of mutual verification which provide an external drive to any necessary dynamic of reflective abstraction within the individual. From this perspective, we argue that axiom schemas tied to a preferred interpretation may provide a necessary intermediate stage of reflective abstraction en route to acquisition of the ability to use formal systems in abstracto. (shrink)
I reject Jackendoff's view of Universal Grammar as something that evolved biologically but applaud his integration of blackboard architectures. I thus recall the HEARSAY speech understanding system—the AI system that introduced the concept of “blackboard”—to provide another perspective on Jackendoff's architecture.
Neural organization: Structure, function, and dynamics shows how theory and experiment can supplement each other in an integrated, evolving account of the brain's structure, function, and dynamics. (1) Structure: Studies of brain function and dynamics build on and contribute to an understanding of many brain regions, the neural circuits that constitute them, and their spatial relations. We emphasize Szentágothai's modular architectonics principle, but also stress the importance of the microcomplexes of cerebellar circuitry and the lamellae of hippocampus. (2) Function: Control (...) of eye movements, reaching and grasping, cognitive maps, and the roles of vision receive a functional decomposition in terms of schemas. Hypotheses as to how each schema is implemented through the interaction of specific brain regions provide the basis for modeling the overall function by neural networks constrained by neural data. Synthetic PET integrates modeling of primate circuitry with data from human brain imaging. (3) Dynamics: Dynamic system theory analyzes spatiotemporal neural phenomena, such as oscillatory and chaotic activity in both single neurons and (often synchronized) neural networks, the self-organizing development and plasticity of ordered neural structures, and learning and memory phenomena associated with synaptic modification. Rhythm generation involves multiple levels of analysis, from intrinsic cellular processes to loops involving multiple brain regions. A variety of rhythms are related to memory functions. The Précis presents a multifaceted case study of the hippocampus. We conclude with the claim that language and other cognitive processes can be fruitfully studied within the framework of neural organization that the authors have charted with John Szentágothai. Key Words: cognitive maps; computational neuroscience; dynamics; hippocampus; memory; modular architectonics; neural modeling; neural organization; neural plasticity; rhythmogenesis; Szentágothai. (shrink)
We focus on the evolution of action capabilities which set the stage for language, rather than analyzing how further brain evolution built on these capabilities to yield a language-ready brain. Our framework is given by the Mirror System Hypothesis, which charts a progression from a monkey-like mirror neuron system (MNS) to a chimpanzee-like mirror system that supports simple imitation and thence to a human-like mirror system that supports complex imitation and language. We present the MNS2 model, a new model of (...) action recognition learning by mirror neurons of the macaque brain and augmented competitive queuing, a model of opportunistic scheduling of action sequences as background for analysis of modeling strategies for simple imitation as seen in the great apes and complex/goal-directed imitation as seen in humans. Implications for the study of language are briefly noted. (shrink)
Challenges for extending the mirror system hypothesis include mechanisms supporting planning, conversation, motivation, theory of mind, and prosody. Modeling remains relevant. Co-speech gestures show how manual gesture and speech intertwine, but more attention is needed to the auditory system and phonology. The holophrastic view of protolanguage is debated, along with semantics and the cultural basis of grammars. Anatomically separated regions may share an evolutionary history.
We ask what cerebellum and basal ganglia arguing that cerebellum tunes motor schemas and their coordination. We argue for a synthesis of models addressing the real-time role and error signaling roles of climbing fibers. bridges between regional and neuro-physiological studies, while relates the neurochemis-try of learning to neural and behavioral levels. [CRÉPEL et al.; HOUK et al.; KANO; LINDEN; SIMPSON et al.; SMITH; THACH; VINCENT].
Hurford argues that propositions of the form PREDICATE(x) represent conceptual structures that predate language and that can be explicated in terms of neural structure. I disagree, arguing that such predicates are descriptions of limited aspects of brain function, not available as representations in the brain to be exploited in the frog or monkey brain and turned into language in the human.
The intriguing observation that left-cerebral dominance for vocalization is ancient, occurring in frogs, birds, and mammals, grounds Corballis's argument that the predominance of right-handedness may result from an association between manual gestures and vocalization in the evolution of language. This commentary supports the general thesis that language evolved “From hand to mouth” (Corballis 2002), while offering alternatives for some of Corballis's supporting arguments.
We clarify the arguments in Neural organization: Structure, function, and dynamics, acknowledge important contributions cited by our critics, and respond to their criticisms by charting directions for further development of our integrated approach to theoretical and empirical studies of neural organization. We first discuss functional organization in general (behavior versus cognitive functioning, the need to study body and brain together, function in ontogeny and phylogeny) and then focus on schema theory (noting that schema theory is not just a top-down theory (...) and discussing the transition from action-oriented perception to cognition). We then turn to dynamical organization, with a focus first on neural modeling and dynamics (clarifying the multiple functions of neurons and brain regions, and looking further at various forms of dynamics) and second on learning, development, and self-organization (looking at monoaminergic systems, reinforcement, self-organization, postnatal development, and disease). We close with a brief philosophical discussion of postmodernism and reductionism. (shrink)
We examine tool use in relation to the capacity of animals for construction, contrasting tools and nests; place human tool use in a more general problem-solving context, revisiting the body schema in the process; and relate the evolution of language and of tool use.