Lingua ex Machina: Reconciling Darwin and Chomsky with the Human Brain / Edition 1

Lingua ex Machina: Reconciling Darwin and Chomsky with the Human Brain / Edition 1

by William H. Calvin, Derek Bickerton
     
 

ISBN-10: 0262032732

ISBN-13: 9780262032735

Pub. Date: 02/04/2000

Publisher: MIT Press

A machine for language? Certainly, say the neurophysiologists, busy studying the language specializations of the human brain and trying to identify their evolutionary antecedents. Linguists such as Noam Chomsky talk about machinelike "modules" in the brain for syntax, arguing that language is more an instinct (a complex behavior triggered by simple environmental…  See more details below

Overview

A machine for language? Certainly, say the neurophysiologists, busy studying the language specializations of the human brain and trying to identify their evolutionary antecedents. Linguists such as Noam Chomsky talk about machinelike "modules" in the brain for syntax, arguing that language is more an instinct (a complex behavior triggered by simple environmental stimuli) than an acquired skill like riding a bicycle.

But structured language presents the same evolutionary problems as feathered forelimbs for flight: you need a lot of specializations to fly even a little bit. How do you get them, if evolution has no foresight and the intermediate stages do not have intermediate payoffs? Some say that the Darwinian scheme for gradual species self-improvement cannot explain our most valued human capability, the one that sets us so far above the apes, language itself.

William Calvin and Derek Bickerton suggest that other evolutionary developments, not directly related to language, allowed language to evolve in a way that eventually promoted a Chomskian syntax. They compare these intermediate behaviors to the curb-cuts originally intended for wheelchair users. Their usefulness was soon discovered by users of strollers, shopping carts, rollerblades, and so on. The authors argue that reciprocal altruism and ballistic movement planning were "curb-cuts" that indirectly promoted the formation of structured language. Written in the form of a dialogue set in Bellagio, Italy, Lingua ex Machina presents an engaging challenge to those who view the human capacity for language as a winner-take-all war between Chomsky and Darwin.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780262032735
Publisher:
MIT Press
Publication date:
02/04/2000
Series:
Bradford Books Series
Edition description:
Fifth Edition
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Table of Contents

1The Villa Serbelloni1
2What Are Words?13
3Why Putting Words Together Isn't Easy27
4Bigger than a Word, Smaller than a Sentence41
5Language in the Brain55
6How Are Memories Stored?67
7Hexagonal Mosaics and Darwin Machines75
8A Common Code: The Brain's "Esperanto" Problem93
9Protolanguage Emerging103
10Reciprocal Altruism as the Predecessor of Argument Structure123
11Role Links for Words135
12The Word Tree as a Secondary Use of Throwing's Segmented Movement Planner151
13Corticocortical Coherence Promotes a Many-Voiced Symphonic Sentence169
14The Pump and the Slingshot183
15Darwin and Chomsky Together at Last195
Acknowledgments213
Linguistics appendix215
Glossary247
Notes261
About the Authors281
Index285

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