Biolinguistics: An Introduction

Pre-Adaptationist Approach in the Origin of Language

 Most people assume language is not a biological product of evolution, but something that appeared suddenly, without precursor, in humans (Punctuationist). Others assume that language emerged gradually from a rudiment form of communication by Darwinian process of natural selection (Naiive evolutionalist).

 Our aim is to submit a biologically plausible scenario to explain emergence of human language. For this, we take the stance that language is not a single faculty but an integration of several sub-faculties (pre-adaptationist). Each of these sub-faculties evolved NOT for language itself, but FOR some other purpose. This is a ”pre-adaptation” view of language emergence.


Necessary Pre-adaptation

 What are pre-adaptations that are non-trivially necessary to explain the emergence of language? We assume the followings. 1) Vocal learning, 2) Syntax, 3) Semantics, and 4) Mutual Segmentation.
 We use birds to study 1) and 2), rodents for 3) and humans for 2-4). We also utilize constructive approaches to simulate the process of 4).


Mutual Segmentation: Merging of Syntax and Semantics

 In our language, syntax is merged with semantics and used as an integrated whole. How this occurred? We propose “mutual segmentation” hypothesis.
 In an ancestral human, songs are used to denote many occasions. Then, the common parts of the occasions and common parts of the song strings are mutually segmented each other and a small unit that has more specified meaning emerged.
 These units are still within the song syntax thus meaning and syntax co-occurred in the song bout.


Case Studies: Songbirds, Rats, and Humans

Songbirds: Bengalese fiches, Zebra fiches, and White-backed Munias

Rats: Naked Mole-rats and Degus

Humans: Adults and Infants

Copyright(c) Kazuo Okanoya. All rights reserved.

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Last-modified: 2014-09-17 (水) 16:32:09 (1129d)