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The biology of language and the epigenesis of recursive embedding

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Theorists have oversold the usefulness of predicate logic and generative grammar to the study of language origins. They have searched for models that correspond to semantic properties, such as truth, when what is needed is an empirically testable model of evolution. Such a model is required if we are to explain the origins of linguistic properties by appealing to general properties of linguistic engendering, rather than to the advent of genotypes with the propensity to produce certain brain mechanisms. While the latter sort of explanation has a place, no theory can be considered an ‘evolutionary’ theory without the former. We introduce a general notion of engendering, whose primary virtue is its freedom from assumptions regarding the nature of colloquial change. We use it to frame a conjecture about the evolution of centre embedded clauses; one which makes the fewest possible assumptions about the neural requirements upon individual brains. Keywords: biology of language; epigenesis; engendering; evolution; mutation; population; recursion

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-01-01

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