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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hokuga.hgu.jp/dspace/handle/123456789/1245

Title: The evolution of language : Achievement or accident?
Authors: MATTHEWS, John
Keywords: evolution
Issue Date: 31-Mar-1996
Publisher: 北海学園大学人文学会
Abstract: The ability of human beings to exchange ideas through language is frequently cited as one of the greatest achievements of our species-indeed, one that separates us from other animals. This paper brings together the major arguments put forth in the debate as to whether this uniquely human capacity has evolved by Darwinian natural selection and examines what each position presupposes language to be. By clarifying what it is that we refer to when we consider the evolution of language, it is observed that many of the arguments made are in fact orthogonal to one another. It is imperative that we separate language evolution (the diachronic change in a language) from the evolution of language (the phylogenetic development of the capacity for language). Similarly, we must also distinguish properties of language from properties of a language. The question of whether language has evolved in a manner akin to something like the human eye or our capacity for fine motor control is simply not addressed by characteristics of English, or French, or Japanese. The relevant structures to be considered include the innate mechanisms predisposing infants to the acquisition of language the organic components of the brain believed to subserve language functions and the relevant paleontological facts provided by the fossil record. It is hoped that by revealing and debunking misguided arguments, the evidence for language having evolved by natural selection will be seen to be compelling.
URI: http://hokuga.hgu.jp/dspace/handle/123456789/1245
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