LANGUAGE EVOLUTION: 2 Psycoloquy Calls for Commentators

Stevan Harnad harnad at cogito.ecs.soton.ac.uk
Sat Oct 16 13:32:40 EST 1999


    (1) THE COGNITIVE PREREQUISITES FOR LANGUAGE (Burling)
        http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/psyc-bin/newpsy?10.032

    (2) LANGUAGE EVOLUTION AND THE COMPLEXITY CRITERION (Bichakjian)
        http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/psyc-bin/newpsy?10.033

    The two target articles whose abstracts follow below were published
    today in PSYCOLOQUY, a refereed journal of Open Peer Commentary
    sponsored by the American Psychological Association. Qualified
    professional biobehavioral, neural or cognitive scientists are
    hereby invited to submit Open Peer Commentary on either or both
    articles. Please email or consult the journal's websites below for
    Instructions if you are not familiar with format or acceptance
    criteria for PSYCOLOQUY commentaries (all submissions are
    refereed).

    To submit articles and commentaries or to seek information:

    EMAIL: psyc at pucc.princeton.edu
    URL:   http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/psyc.html
           http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/psyc

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    (1)         THE COGNITIVE PREREQUISITES FOR LANGUAGE
                Target Article on Language-Prerequisites

                Robbins Burling
                Department of Anthropology
                1020 LSA Building
                University of Michigan
                Ann Arbor MI 48109 USA
                rburling at umich.edu

    ABSTRACT: The first use of words by our early ancestors probably
    depended on four cognitive capacities: A rich conceptual
    understanding of the world around us; the ability to use and
    understand motivated signs, both icons and indices; the ability to
    imitate; the ability to infer the referential intentions of others.
    The latter three capacities are rare or absent in nonprimate
    mammals, but incipient in apes and well developed in modern humans.
    Before early humans could have begun to use words these capacities
    would have needed further development than is found in modern apes.
    It is not clear why selection favoured these skills more strongly
    in our ancestors than in the ancestors of apes.

    KEYWORDS: cognition; evolution; iconicity; imitation; language;
    names; theory-of-mind; words.

Access full text at: 

    http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/psyc-bin/newpsy?10.032

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    (2)         LANGUAGE EVOLUTION AND THE COMPLEXITY CRITERION
                Target Article on Language-Complexity
        
                Bernard H. Bichakjian
                Department of French
                University of Nijmegen, 
                The Netherlands
                Bichakjian at let.kun.nl
                http://welcome.to/bichakjian

    ABSTRACT: Though it is increasingly accepted in the behavioral
    sciences, the evolutionary approach is still meeting resistance in
    linguistics. Linguists generally cling to the idea that alternative
    linguistic features are simply gratuitous variants of one another,
    while the advocates of innate grammars, who make room for evolution
    as a biological process, exclude the evolution of languages. The
    rationale given is that today's languages are all complex systems.
    This argument is based on the failure to distinguish between
    complexities of form and function. The proper analysis reveals
    instead that linguistic features have consistently decreased their
    material complexity, while increasing their functionality. A
    systematic historical survey will show instead that languages have
    evolved and linguistic features have developed along a Darwinian
    line.

    KEYWORDS: complexity, Indo-European, language evolution,
    lateralization, neoteny, word order.

Access full text at: 

    http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/psyc-bin/newpsy?10.033

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    To submit articles and commentaries or to seek information:

    EMAIL: psyc at pucc.princeton.edu
    URL:   http://www.princeton.edu/~harnad/psyc.html
           http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/psyc




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