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Narrow syntax and the language of thought

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Abstract:

A traditional view maintains that thought, while expressed in language, is non-linguistic in nature and occurs in non-linguistic beings as well. I assess this view against current theories of the evolutionary design of human grammar. I argue that even if some forms of human thought are shared with non-human animals, a residue remains that characterizes a unique way in which human thought is organized as a system. I explore the hypothesis that the cause of this difference is a grammatical way of structuring semantic information, and I present evidence that the organization of grammar precisely reflects the organization of a specific mode of thought apparently distinctive of humans. Since there appears to be no known non-grammatical structuring principle for the relevant mode of thought, I suggest that grammar is that principle, with no independent “Language of Thought” needed.

Keywords: Evolution of Language; Language of Thought; Narrow Syntax; Thought and Language

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09515089.2011.627537

Publication date: February 1, 2013

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