The evolution of language


The Symbolic Species. The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain. By Terrence W. Deacon. Read this Washington Post article >>

Simulated Evolution of Language. A review of the field

The evolution of language interest group at Standford University

Science Studied by means of Biological Concepts. Börje Ekstig
Department of Teacher Training. Uppsala University, Uppsala Sweden

Language Origins. Perspectives on evolution >>

The evolution of language. How it is combined and mixed. >>

The language machine. A toolkit for language and grammar


One thought on “The evolution of language

  1. The idea of language as a replicating, evolving system — with baby brains as the crucial bottle neck — is quite interesting, particularly as at least a partial account for the apparent “poverty of stimulus” problem.

    Deacon suggests that children are able to acquire language with such relative ease because language has “evolved” to accommodate youthful brains, which results in children “guessing” correctly about language structures with a degree of accuracy seemingly impossible without there being some very specific, hard-wired language faculty. Only a more general, innate symbol processing capacity is required, as opposed to something like Pinkerton’s LAD.

    So in this idea, youthful brains constrain possible language structures/features, but language also has influenced the structure of the brain; individuals with a particular talent for language ultimately out reproduce those with lesser language skills. As the percentage of language-talented individuals within a group increases, the culture of that group is altered so as to effect an increasingly strong selection pressure for language talent. Language races through all possibilities while tugging on the brain — such that the brain becomes increasingly able to handle a wider variety of language features. This is the co-evolutionary phenomenon mentioned in the title.

    In all, a fascinating read, and a highly plausible proposal in my estimation.

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