Skip to main content

Proto-discourse and the emergence of compositionality

Buy Article:

$36.18 plus tax (Refund Policy)

Abstract:

Two opposing accounts of early language evolution, the compositional and the holistic, have become the subject of lively debate. It has been argued that an evolving compositional protolanguage would not be useful for communication until it reached a certain level of grammatical complexity. This paper offers a new, discourse-oriented perspective on the debate. It argues that discourse should be viewed, not as a level of language structure 'beyond the sentence', but as sequenced communicative behaviour, typically but not uniquely involving language. This provides for continuity from exchanges making use of simple communicative resources such as single words and gestures to those making use of complex grammatical conventions. Supporting evidence comes from child language and from original experiments with adults using constrained language systems. The paper shows that the utility of emerging compositional language is not dependent on some critical level of complexity, and so defends the compositional account.

Keywords: COMPOSITIONAL LANGUAGE; CONSTRAINED LANGUAGE SYSTEMS; DISCOURSE; LANGUAGE EVOLUTION; PROTOLANGUAGE

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/is.9.1.03bow

Publication date: April 1, 2008

More about this publication?
  • Social Behaviour and Communication in Biological and Artificial Systems
jbp/is/2008/00000009/00000001/art00002
dcterms_title,dcterms_description,pub_keyword
6
5
20
40
5

Access Key

Free Content
Free content
New Content
New content
Open Access Content
Open access content
Subscribed Content
Subscribed content
Free Trial Content
Free trial content
Cookie Policy
X
Cookie Policy
ingentaconnect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more