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Language, speech, tools and writing. A cultural imperative

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Culture can be said to be about the business of 'self-replication'. From the moment of conception, it impresses its patterns and rhythms on the developing, infinitely plastic neuronal substrate of the fetal organism. It shapes this substrate to become preferentially sensitive to its patterns and thus to seek to replicate them as an adult. This process of neural shaping continues throughout life as the capacity of the brain to reorganize itself according to the uses to which it addresses itself never ceases. The extraordinary capacity of culture to extract different abilities from the biological form is clearly manifest in the lexical, vocal, tool manufacture, and writing capabilities emerging in bonobos raised in a Pan/Homo culture. These findings render moot old questions regarding the innate limits of the ape brain. They raise instead far more productive questions about the form and function of the perpetual dance that is constantly taking place between plastic neuronal systems and their external culturally devised ways of being.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Georgia State University, Language Research Center, 3401 Panthersville Road, Decatur, GA 30034, USA.

Publication date: 2001-05-01

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