Biological Foundations and Origin of Syntax

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Derek Bickerton, Eörs Szathmáry
MIT Press, 2009 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 471 pages
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Interdisciplinary perspectives on the evolutionary and biological roots of syntax, describing current research on syntax in fields ranging from linguistics to neurology.

Syntax is arguably the most human-specific aspect of language. Despite the proto-linguistic capacities of some animals, syntax appears to be the last major evolutionary transition in humans that has some genetic basis. Yet what are the elements to a scenario that can explain such a transition? In this book, experts from linguistics, neurology and neurobiology, cognitive psychology, ecology and evolutionary biology, and computer modeling address this question. Unlike most previous work on the evolution of language, Biological Foundations and Origin of Syntax follows through on a growing consensus among researchers that language can be profitably separated into a number of related and interacting but largely autonomous functions, each of which may have a distinguishable evolutionary history and neurological base. The contributors argue that syntax is such a function.The book describes the current state of research on syntax in different fields, with special emphasis on areas in which the findings of particular disciplines might shed light on problems faced by other disciplines. It defines areas where consensus has been established with regard to the nature, infrastructure, and evolution of the syntax of natural languages; summarizes and evaluates contrasting approaches in areas that remain controversial; and suggests lines for future research to resolve at least some of these disputed issues.

Andrea Baronchelli, Derek Bickerton, Dorothy V. M. Bishop, Denis Bouchard, Robert Boyd, Jens Brauer, Ted Briscoe, David Caplan, Nick Chater, Morten H. Christiansen, Terrence W.Deacon, Francesco d'Errico, Anna Fedor, Julia Fischer, Angela D. Friederici, Tom Giv n, Thomas Griffiths, Bal zs Guly s, Peter Hagoort, Austin Hilliard, James R. Hurford, P ter Ittz s, Gerhard J ger, Herbert J ger, Edith Kaan, Simon Kirby, Natalia L. Komarova, Tatjana Nazir, Frederick Newmeyer, Kazuo Okanoya, Csaba Pl h, Peter J. Richerson, Luigi Rizzi, Wolf Singer, Mark Steedman, Luc Steels, Szabolcs Sz mad , E rs Szathm ry, Maggie Tallerman, Jochen Triesch, Stephanie Ann White


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About the author (2009)

Derek Bickerton is Professor Emeritus in Linguistics at the University of Hawaii. He is the coauthor (with William Calvin) of Lingua ex Machina (MIT Press, 2000) and the author of Language and Species and other books. E rs Szathm ry is Permanent Fellow at Collegium Budapest, Research Fellow at the Parmenides Foundation, Munich, and Professor of Biology at E tv s University, Budapest. He is the coauthor (with John Maynard Smith) of The Origins of Life.

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