MOTOR THEORY AND GESTURE

crosley at tcp.co.uk crosley at tcp.co.uk
Sun Feb 15 14:33:16 EST 1998


In Article<886974029.354549767 at dejanews.com>, 
<rmallott at percep.demon.co.uk> write:
> From: rmallott at percep.demon.co.uk
> Subject: MOTOR THEORY AND GESTURE
> Date: Sun, 08 Feb 1998 17:02:24 -0600
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> forwarded from LINGUIST LIST 30 Jan:
> 
> The recent paper in Nature (January 15) by Goldin-Meadow and 
Mylander on
> spontaneous sign language of children in Taiwan and the 
United States
> taken with the remarkable work of Kegl and McWhorter on the 
gesture
> language invented by children in Nicaragua provide convincing
> observational evidence for the innate relation between 
gesture and
> language, and indeed more generally for the biological origin 
of
> language systems. This material can be related to increasing 
evidence
> for the fundamental importance of sound symbolism in very 
many
> languages.
> 
> More specifically, they support the hypothesis that language 
evolved as
> an exaptation of the previously existing complex cerebral 
motor control
> system and that the effects of the motor origin of language 
can be
> observed and demonstrated in the lexicon and syntax of 
languages
> generally. To the general investigation of the motor theory 
of language
> origin at
> 
> http: //www.percep.demon.co.uk
> 
> has now been added extensive demonstration of the direct 
relation
> between gesture and language in the form of animated gestural
> equivalents of a considerable number of words in English, 
Japanese,
> French (with more cursory treatment of Hebrew, Korean, 
Finnish,
> Hungarian and Basque). To see the animations on the Web it is 
necessary
> to have uptodate versions of Microsoft Explorer or Netscape 
(but not
> necessarily Java). The animations can be seen at:
> 
> http://www.percep.demon.co.uk/mappfol.htm
> 
> and at pages linked to that.
> 
> I hope that it will be possible to find time during the April 
London
> Conference on the Evolution of Language to present the 
complete
> material.
> 
> -------------------==== Posted via Deja News 
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     15/Feb/97
     The place of gesture in the development of language is
     interesting and leads me to the following mental
     ramblings.

     I am interested in schema which define complex movements
     like reaching and grasping. But all possible movements
     are not stored as plans in the brain. It would be
     impossible to be prepared for all the possible actions
     that might be required. John Annett has proposed that
     "Just as the verbal/linguistic system can interpret a
     population of words and phrases, so ... the action
     system stores a 'vocabulary' of elementary actions or
     action prototypes". These are then the components from
     which a schema is developed. 

     In the issue of  Nature for the 31st July 1997, John
     Maddox reviewed a meeting on the evolution of language.
     He quoted one speaker (Bickerton) as saying that the
     language function emerged 'catastrophically'  by
     adapting preexisting neuronal circuitry for the analysis
     of syntax. On an evolutionary scale, the preexisting
     circuitry is likely to be concerned with movement. 

     In the Artful Universe John D. Barrow says:
     "Another activity that can be viewed in this pragmatic
     light is that of dance. Whenever there is a need for
     frenzied activity or heightened sensibilities - in
     preparation for war, in celebration of fertility or of
     birth, or in mourning death- the rhythmic gyrations of
     primitive dance bind people together in shared
     experience. The whole community seems larger than the
     aggregate of its parts; .. ". Nowadays perhaps speech
     would take precedence?

     Could evolution be marked by the development of
     appropriate 'vocabularies' from movement through music
     and dance (which came first? I suppose music via
     drumming to simulate the heart beat?) to speech? 

     But where does music fit in? Did music precede language? 
     The Dance idea is interesting. Presumably evolution
     progressed through non sessile organisms, moving
     organisms, communicating organisms (? through dance,
     e.g.bees dance to indicate where the pollen is, dance to
     attract a mate?), gesturing organisms, speaking
     organisms (e.g.? humans). 

     As Bickerton has not answered my communications, can
     anyone add to his pronouncement? John Shaw





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