Evolution of Language (General)

by David Turell @, Tuesday, October 22, 2019, 21:10 (98 days ago) @ David Turell

The evolution of language requires a complex brain ready for it:

https://inference-review.com/letter/tough-luck

"A major difficulty here is that, as an abstract quality, language does not preserve directly in any material historical record. As a result, the use of language and of any of its putative precursors has to be inferred from indirect proxy evidence furnished principally by archaeology. The range of proxies for language that scientists have been willing to accept has been remarkably broad, adding to the confusion. Berwick and Chomsky sensibly settle on evidence for modern symbolic behavior patterns as the most reliable indicator of linguistic skill among extinct hominids. This conclusion allows them to situate the acquisition of this behavioral property about 100,000 years ago—within the tenure of our own species, Homo sapiens...Wherever in Africa language may have been invented, all that was required for its spread was that recipient populations had the potential to acquire and exhibit the new behavior. That potential had probably arisen in the neural rewiring that occurred as part of the radical developmental reorganization that produced anatomically modern Homo sapiens some 200,000 years ago. Language acquisition would almost certainly have been biologically possible for members of any structurally recognizable Homo sapiens population.

***

"In our view, as well as in Berwick and Chomsky’s, the potential for modern human cognition was almost certainly born some 200,000 years ago with anatomical Homo sapiens. The archaeological indications are that this new potential lay fallow for upwards of 100,000 years, until it was activated by a cultural stimulus of some kind.9 The evolutionary phenomenon involved here is a routine one. The most plausible cultural stimulus was the spontaneous invention of language, which would then have been readily passed on among individuals and populations of this species that was already biologically enabled for it.

***

"There can be little doubt that Berwick and Chomsky are correct in viewing language as an essential portal to symbolic reasoning, as we think of it today; but to see its externalization as no more than a later afterthought deprives us of the incomparably best candidate we have for the cultural stimulus that incited a brain that was already structurally modern to switch from using the ancestral intuitive algorithm to operating in the modern symbolic one. Much more likely is that mutual reinforcement occurred between symbolic thought and spoken language as, amid the climatic rigors of late Pleistocene Africa, members of a small isolate of Homo sapiens possessing language-ready brains spontaneously began to attach specific meanings to strings of sounds, and to combine them into organized thoughts and utterances."

Comment: Full support for my view. When the material brain evolved to the proper complex form, humans could then learn to use it for language creation. Evolution of language is done by humans who are brain capable. The process of evolution did not evolve immaterial language.


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