Evolutionary linguistics

Evolutionary linguistics or Darwinian linguistics is a sociobiological approach to the study of language.[1][2] Evolutionary linguists consider linguistics as a subfield of sociobiology and evolutionary psychology. The approach is also closely linked with evolutionary anthropology, cognitive linguistics and biolinguistics. Studying languages as the products of nature, it is interested in the biological origin and development of language.[3] Evolutionary linguistics is contrasted with humanistic approaches, especially structural linguistics.[4]

A main challenge in this research is the lack of empirical data: there are no archaeological traces of early human language. Computational biological modelling and clinical research with artificial languages have been employed to fill in gaps of knowledge. Although biology is understood to shape the brain, which processes language, there is no clear link between biology and specific human language structures or linguistic universals.[5]

For lack of a breakthrough in the field, there have been numerous debates about what kind of natural phenomenon language might be. Some researchers focus on the innate aspects of language. It is suggested that grammar has emerged adaptationally from the human genome, bringing about a language instinct;[6] or that it depends on a single mutation[7] which has caused a language organ to appear in the human brain.[8] This is hypothesized to result in a crystalline[9] grammatical structure underlying all human languages. Others suggest language is not crystallized, but fluid and ever-changing.[10] Others, yet, liken languages to living organisms.[11] Languages are considered analogous to a parasite[12] or populations of mind-viruses. There is so far little scientific evidence for any of these claims, and some of them have been labelled as pseudoscience.[13][14]

  1. ^ Gontier, Nathalie (2012). "Selectionist approaches in evolutionary linguistics: an epistemological analysis". International Studies in the Philosophy of Science. 26 (1): 67–95. doi:10.1080/02698595.2012.653114. hdl:10451/45246. S2CID 121742473.
  2. ^ McMahon, April; McMahon, Robert (2012). Evolutionary Linguistics. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521891394.
  3. ^ Croft, William (October 2008). "Evolutionary Linguistics". Annual Review of Anthropology. 37: 219–234. doi:10.1146/annurev.anthro.37.081407.085156.
  4. ^ Croft, William (1993). "Functional-typological theory in its historical and intellectual context". STUF - Language Typology and Universals. 46 (1–4): 15–26. doi:10.1524/stuf.1993.46.14.15. S2CID 170296028.
  5. ^ Gibson, Kathleen R.; Tallerman, Maggie, eds. (2011). The Oxford Handbook of Language Evolution. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199541119.
  6. ^ Pinker, Steven (1994). The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (PDF). Penguin Books. ISBN 9780140175295. Retrieved 2020-03-03.
  7. ^ Berwick, Robert C.; Chomsky, Noam (2015). Why Only Us: Language and Evolution. MIT Press. ISBN 9780262034241.
  8. ^ Anderson, Stephen R.; Lightfoot, David W. (2003). The Language Organ: Linguistics as Cognitive Psychology. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521007832.
  9. ^ Chomsky, Noam (2015). The Minimalist Program. 20th Anniversary Edition. MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-52734-7.
  10. ^ Bybee, Joan L.; Beckner, Clay (2015). "Usage-Based theory". In Heine, Bernd; Narrog, Heiko (eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Linguistic Analysis. Oxford University Press. pp. 953–980. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199544004.013.0032. ISBN 978-0199544004.
  11. ^ van Driem, George (2005). "The language organism: the Leiden theory of language evolution". In Minett, James W.; Wang, William S.-Y. (eds.). Language Acquisition, Change and Emergence: Essays in Evolutionary Linguistics. pp. 331–340.
  12. ^ Hung, Tzu-wei (2019). "How did language evolve? Some reflections on the language parasite debate". Biological Theory. 14 (4): 214–223. doi:10.1007/s13752-019-00321-x. S2CID 145846758. Retrieved 2020-03-02.
  13. ^ Schwarz-Friesel, Monika (2012). "On the status of external evidence in the theories of cognitive linguistics". Language Sciences. 34 (6): 656–664. doi:10.1016/j.langsci.2012.04.007.
  14. ^ Polichak, James W. (2002). "Memes as pseudoscience". In Shermer, Michael (ed.). The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience, Vol. 1. ABC Clio. pp. 664–667. ISBN 1-57607-653-9.

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