Language evolution

Many times discussing here at TSZ I was told that evolution of language was an prooved example of darwinistic evolution. What do you think about this article?

http://journal.frontiersin.org/Journal/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00401/full

44 thoughts on “Language evolution

  1. What do you think about this article?

    It is typical Chomskian BS, including the use of the phrase “poverty of evidence.”

    I’m disappointed to see Lewontin’s name among the authors.

  2. Who has ever claimed that language evolution even is Darwinian, let alone any sort of “proof” of anything?

    What is clear is that many creationists, including IDists, will accept that “natural constraints” have resulted in the observable traits of language evolution in, say, the Indo-European languages, yet won’t accept the similar evidence of natural constraints resulting in the evolutionary evidence of life. Indeed, it’s only the similarity of historic constraint that is found in both language and in biologic evolution, while the mechanisms of change differ greatly.

    I’d still like any creationist to explain how it is that prokaryotes were “designed” using large amounts of horizontal transfers, while most eukaryotes were not (in the last half billion years or so, anyhow). In other words, “microevolution” in both sorts of life follows observed mechanistic constraints–and so does “macroevolution.” Like evolutionary theory predicts–and ID does not. Just another massive ID coincidence?

    Glen Davidson

  3. “Many times discussing here at TSZ I was told that evolution of language was an prooved example of darwinistic evolution.”

    What were they talking about specifically, the ultimate origin of human language, or the fact that languages change over time in a way that mimics evolution?

  4. Rumraket is right to ask what topic is being discussed.

    The topic of the article is the evolution of language. That is, the evolution of the human capacity for language. When people argue that change of languages provide an example of a process analogous to biological evolution, they are talking instead about the evolution of languages, a different process. It is the process by which languages change and by which one language gives rise to two different languages.

    The article is irrelevant to those processes. I also don’t know whether those processes are “Darwinistic” — you’d have to ask a Darwinisticist.

    People have used evolution of languages to argue that creationists who accept that English and Spanish have a common ancestor are being illogical when they refuse to accept that salmon and tuna have a common ancestor. That is, of course, not an argument that the primary process of change of languages is analogous to natural selection.

    Inferring common ancestry — which we can do both for languages and for species — does not depend on knowing whether the changes are due to natural selection.

  5. As Darwin wrote: “In a large and metaphorical sense…”

    Is it possible to consider non-evolutionary change in this conversation? Probably not here at TSZ. But one can still dream of the freedom to view change as the master category and ‘evolution’ as the sub-category.

    Darwin was obviously no expert on language (nods of agreement), so even involving him in the discussion of language is questionable. The linked article only mentions him once in passing, unrelated to language change while still gushing over his scientific contribution.

    “In this paper, we are interested in biological as opposed to cultural evolution.”

    Good, b/c ‘cultural evolution’ is a misnomer.

    If the main topic is simply “language change,” why even bring biological evolution into it when it is largely irrelevant? Language change and development is a fascinating topic, even while leaving ‘evolutionary theory’ entirely out of the conversation.

    Oh, Joe, you’re a ‘Darwinisticist’ at heart, or at least a follower of Darwin as an evolutionary biologist. Why not simply admit it? = )

  6. Gregory, surely everything is “different” from everything else, so therefore, by your logic, nothing is relevant to the discussion of anything else.

    Allowing ourselves to explore parallels, the issue is whether “evolution” of languages and evolution of living organisms can be modeled in closely similar ways. Can we treat the different forms of words as features that show descent from a common ancestor? Is it useful to conclude that the Russian word “voda” and the English word “water” not only have similar meanings, but show common descent from a single ancestor?

    Can we model the process of language change (roughly) as random alterations of features in an entity that has a large number of features? Linguists and biologists have both found that a useful rough model. Both know that the changes may well not really be random, but that they are sufficiently well-modeled by randomness.

    In the hands of biologists this leads to statistical methods for inferring phylogenies. In the hands of linguists it has led to an understanding that Russian and English did in fact have a common ancestor, but that Swedish and English had a more recent common ancestor.

    And no, I am not a “Darwinisticist”. I am actually a “Darwinisticismist”. Those are different, and therefore neither should be discussed in the presence of the other.

  7. The first thing i smell out is that the article in lamenting evolutionary evidence for languages WANTS to make it clear they otherwise agree with Darwins evolution ideas.
    they are sensitive to creationists saying AHA. Not just this either you guys!
    I think I smell this out.

    What does the bible say?
    The reason there is a problem is they must imagine a evolving need for language before the language.
    The bible says we always were thinking beings and so always needed to use sounds to articulate these thinkings. Simple.
    Apes unlikely had evolving higher thinking and then BANG a language.
    it doesn’t work.
    Language is a very simple act of memorizing sounds and so in combinations that we have agreed to what they represent.
    Ones accent indicates a constant added sound to the other combinations of sounds called words.
    Singing is the mere stretching of words in order to emphasize a tone.sound .
    Music is mimicking the tones/sounds we use all day long to great effects.
    All is simple simple memorization of sounds we have agreed to their meaning.
    Animals do exactly the same thing as us. Yet being dumb they use very few sounds. tHough also memorized anf agreed to in meaning.
    the difference with us is our great intelligence because we are made in gods image. We are smart LIKE God though not as much.
    Evolutionism can’t figure out the origin of language because there was none.
    To explain language they can’t go from a few grunts to a human language.
    they must imagine a evolving intelligence with evolving sounds.
    so halfway to us would be a great language relative to animals.
    unlikely it seems eh.
    To explain language they must explain primate intelligence evolution with results.

  8. Robert Byers: Language is a very simple act of memorizing sounds and so in combinations that we have agreed to what they represent.

    “OK, guys. Can we agree to call cows ‘cows’? All in favor of calling cows ‘cows’ please signify by saying ‘Aye’. OK, wait one minute here. [Short, if somewhat unpleasant, discussion ensues between the elder and one of the participants.] Oh, for heaven’s sakes, Quinestone, we’re not getting into the business about how we know they’re not cow-stages rather than cows again. Please go take that up with the Gavagans, over at Davidson Rock. [All wait as Quinestone heads west, taking two or three people with him.] Now, let us return to business. The question has been called, and parliamentary procedure requires that we have our vote now on whether to call cows ‘cows’. [The vote is taken and the motion is carried by a vote of 46 to 7.] The ‘Ayes’ have it, so henceforth cows shall be referred to as ‘cows’ (but, as we discussed yesterday, not the bully ones, which we’ll continue to call ‘bulls’).”

  9. walto: “OK, guys.Can we agree to call cows ‘cows’?All in favor of calling cows ‘cows’ please signify by saying ‘Aye’.OK, wait one minute here. [Short, if somewhat unpleasant, discussion ensues between the elder and one of the participants.] Oh, for heaven’s sakes, Quinestone, we’re not getting into the business about how we know they’re not cow-stages rather than cows again.Please go take that up with the Gavagans, over at Davidson Rock.[All wait as Quinestone heads west, taking two or three people with him.] Now, let us return to business.The question has been called, and parliamentary procedure requires that we have our vote now on whether to call cows ‘cows’. [The vote is taken and the motion is carried by a vote of 46 to 7.] The ‘Ayes’ have it, so henceforth cows shall be referred to as ‘cows’ (but, as we discussed yesterday, not the bully ones, which we’ll continue to call ‘bulls’).”

    Actually that was funny. Yet we have agreed to what the combinations of sounds (words) means,!
    So its all about memory.
    The origin of all this is another topic.
    In fact it was before babel.
    However its still all about intelligent thoughts needing expression by sounds.
    Then its all memorized in agreement.
    The intelligence came first and language was instant with Adam.
    There is only a mystery to language if intelligence did not come first.
    therefore evolution must imagine grunts increasingly meaning more and in a slow evolution with smarts.
    Very unlikely.
    Animals have so few thoughts that there is no need for language.Its not that they are
    frustrated.
    Our thoughts are the complicated thing. Language is simplistic as much as animals in their use of sounds.

  10. Robert Byers: In fact

    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Robert Byers:
    Animals have so few thoughts that there is no need for language.Its not that they are
    frustrated.
    Our thoughts are the complicated thing. Language is simplistic as much as animals in their use of sounds.

    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  11. I don’t see what problem Robert is addressing. Is he saying the difficulty in reconstructing the past is evidince that it didn’t happen?

  12. What I like about Robert’s posts is his perfect satisfaction with “The Bible says” as resolving all questions. It’s sooo cute. I wonder if Bronze age science has explained to him how his microwave oven works as well as psycho-linguistics. How nice and comforting to have one little (not to say goofy) book to explain EVERYTHING. Soup to nuts (not just the proper dismemberment of concubines a la Deborah).

  13. walto:
    What I like about Robert’s posts

    In a thread on language evolution, one could view RB’s posts as natural experiments on the effects of random variations in sentence capitalization with respect to fitness as measured by comprehensibility.

    I think one would conclude that there is no impact on the comprehensibility of the posts by such variation. So these random changes would be neutral.

    In a previous thread, RB showed a droll sense of humor (accidentally?).

    One might be tempted to invoke Poe’s law, but that could be seen as a violation of site rules on assuming posters are earnest.

  14. petrushka:
    I don’t see what problem Robert is addressing. Is he saying the difficulty in reconstructing the past is evidince that it didn’t happen?

    No. Its that presumptions here are not including the option of what the bible says.
    Our innate nature is to be as smart as God and so our thinking abilities are our identity.
    our language simply simply uses sounds to represent these these thoughts.
    no evolution nof language ever took place.

    [Fixed the quoting (I hope) — Neil Rickert]

  15. BruceS: In a thread on language evolution, one could view RB’s posts as natural experiments on the effects of random variations insentence capitalization with respect to fitness as measured by comprehensibility.

    I think one would conclude that there is no impact on the comprehensibility of the posts by such variation.So these random changes would be neutral.

    In a previous thread, RB showed a droll sense of humor (accidentally?).

    One might be tempted to invoke Poe’s law, but that could be seen as a violation of site rules on assuming posters are earnest.

    Why even a suspicion of not being ernest???
    Its just another way to say my ideas are inferior. Well add to the conversation.
    What is wrong with my ideas based on the bible and my own analysis.?
    step up to the bat and not just yell from the stands.
    Do you think language is a mystery as to its origins and essence?

  16. Why should anyone care “What is wrong with [your] ideas based on the [B]ible?” If I were to respond, “Well, what’s wrong with mine, based on the Mahabharata (or the Iliad)?” would you give a shit? How close some theory jibes with this or that ancient text is of literary or anthropological interest only,

    In a word, your posts suggest Poe’s Law because they’re ridiculous. That seems harsh and contrary to <Godot’s Principles> (I’m sure she’ll return shortly and make everything wonderful!!), and I’m sorry for that, but to me (and likely many others here), your “The Bible says….” isn’t much different from “Alice and Wonderland says” (although, of course, Carroll was a much better logician than any of the various authors of the Bible).

  17. Joe Felsenstein,

    We’ve done this before here at TSZ, so in case you didn’t see it, please check here. Reciprocating Bill’s distinction between ‘evolution’ and ‘innovation’ appears valid to me, and this distinction is supported by Henning Andersen, a historical linguist (expert on the history of Slavic languages). If you have access to Academia.edu, Joe, I’d recommend reading the paper I highlighted from Andersen in that thread.

    This book shows that the notion of ‘language evolution’ is not a settled issue, though when evolutionary biologists try to draw ‘parallels’, no doubt ‘evolution’ is what they think they see.

    My basic question does remain, however, Joe: Is it possible to consider non-evolutionary change in this conversation? If so, what would you call that type of change? If not, why not?

    I didn’t write the word ‘different,’ but the point is that the ‘parallel’ or ‘analogy’ can be pushed too far. As Kuhn (favorite HPS of USA scientists) wrote:

    “The analogy that relates the evolution of organisms to the evolution of scientific ideas can easily be pushed too far.” (1970)

    Pause.

    “the changes may well not really be random, but that they are sufficiently well-modeled by randomness.” – Joe

    ‘Sufficiently’ is crucial to define here. What is missing in the ‘evolutionist’ (ideologically) perspective of language change-over-time is choice, agency, will, purpose, direction, plan, intention, i.e. that which is absent from the model in evolutionary biology. Acknowledging that then opens up a fascinating discussion of what “may well not really be random,” which is for me much more interesting (and difficult!) than the simple evolutionary conclusions when language is reduced to biology.

    One can use ‘statistical methods’ outside of an evolutionary paradigm and certainly one needn’t accept an evolutionistic or even Darwinian worldview to use them. As Neo said: “the problem is choice.” Evolution is a weak explanatory model for language change when choice, intention and purpose are included, i.e. allowed into the conversation. The non-evolutionist has an advantage here because they can accept biological evolution, without falling into the dehumanising abyss of ‘language evolution’ where agency collapses into fatalism.

  18. “Why even a suspicion of not being ernest???”

    1) you don’t write clearly – better said, you write sloppily
    2) you seem to wear the label ‘creationist’ with such pride, yes, pride
    3) you don’t seem able to learn from anyone who is not a ‘creationist’ &/or IDist
    4) you rarely cite evidence or expert views in the fields you are critiquing, which makes it appear that you have read very little if any of the relevant literature

    thus, as a result

    5) you give the religion you claim to have faith in a bad name.

    I’m not questioning that religion, Robert, simply pointing out that the way you ‘apologise’ for it is both ineffective, crude and easily dismissed.

    “our language simply simply uses sounds to represent these these thoughts.”

    Will you do people a favour, Robert, and spell check/proofread your posts before sending them? Or at least take time to edit them shortly after posting? You are literally one of the most incomprehensible posters I’ve seen on the internet, which is at least partly why TSZers play with you.

    Sorry if that stings, but perhaps a reality check rebuke is tolerable, since you honestly asked?

  19. Gregory,

    I’m assuming you deleted your duplicate comment that I found in the moderation queue so it’s in trash but recoverable if need be.

  20. Gregory, let’s recall what the original issue was in this thread. Blas asked whether the evolution of language “was [a] pr[o]ved example of Darwinistic evolution”. Blas then linked to a paper skeptical of whether we have an adequate explanation for the original origin of the human capacity for language.

    In arguments with creationists, it is frequently pointed out to them that we can make inferences of common ancestry of languages, in a way closely parallel to what we do with species. In fact, computer programs used for the latter are also being used for the former. Blas’s citation was irrelevant to that, because the issue in the debates with creationists is not the original origin of languages.

    I doubt that you disagree with the evolutionary side of that argument — I am going to guess that you do agree that Swedish is more closely related to English than is Russian, but that all three are descended from an original Indo-European language.

    Inference of genealogies of languages does not make their change a case of Darwinian evolution. There are, I agree with you, many processes at work in change of languages that do not have parallels in biological evolution, so it is oversimple to call language change Darwinian evolution. (It might be “Darwinistic” evolution, if anyone had any notion how that differs from “Darwinian” evolution).

    So let me summarize my views:

    1. Language change is not a case of Darwinian evolution — Blas is right about that. It’s an example of change in human culture.

    2. The origin of the capacity for human language may or may not have any semi-reasonable explanation. Blas’s citation is relevant only to that issue.

    3. Nevertheless simple models of random change in features are highly useful in modeling genealogies of human languages, just as these models are also useful in modeling genealogies of species. The validity of those inferences stands, and if Blas was questioning them, then Blas’s argument missed the mark. (My guess is that Blas was questioning those inferences).

    4. If you want to bring all sorts of nonbiological processes into the discussion, fine. But to make it relevant to the common-ancestry debate, you’d have to show that they invalidate the inference of ancestry of languages.

    5. You might protest that Blas wasn’t raising that issue but only wanted to talk about the origin of the human capacity for language. If so, and we conclude that this origin is ill-explained, then that conclusion still does not call into question the parallel between genealogies of languages and genealogies of species. Nor are those genealogical inferences invalidated by the presence of processes of language change that have no parallels in biology.

  21. Bruce:
    “ernest”, not” earnest”. A Wilde allusion? “Another clue for you all…”?

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  22. Joe Felsenstein:

    So let me summarize my views:

    1. Language change is not a case of Darwinian evolution — Blas is right about that.It’s an example of change in human culture.

    2. The origin of the capacity for human language may or may not have any semi-reasonable explanation.Blas’s citation is relevant only to that issue.

    3. Nevertheless simple models of random change in features are highly useful in modeling genealogies of human languages, just as these models are also useful in modeling genealogies of species.The validity of those inferences stands, and if Blas was questioning them, then Blas’s argument missed the mark.(My guess is that Blas was questioning those inferences).

    4. If you want to bring all sorts of nonbiological processes into the discussion, fine.But to make it relevant to the common-ancestry debate, you’d have to show that they invalidate the inference of ancestry of languages.

    5. You might protest that Blas wasn’t raising that issue but only wanted to talk about theorigin of the human capacity for language.If so, and we conclude that this origin is ill-explained, then that conclusion still does not call into question the parallel between genealogies of languages and genealogies of species.Nor are those genealogical inferences invalidated by the presence of processes of language change that have no parallels in biology.

    Good summary, but I’d have to question the idea that language evolution is random to any large degree. Functionally, languages don’t really change randomly, they follow rules (English words won’t change to start with “pt,” for instance), and sound changes tend to be those formed similarly by mouth/tongue. So “f” sound turns to “p” sound, and vice-versa, similarly with “m” and “b” sounds. Duality in number tends to disappear in later languages (probably because cultures are more “numerate”), and Indo-European languages have tended to lose cases.

    Randomness does play a role, of course, but minds are collectively changing languages, not chemical “mistakes.”

    To be sure, organisms don’t actually change randomly either, due to natural selection, which is probably one reason why genealogies of languages and of organisms are usually fairly similar, save the rates of change. There are ,more differences, though. The vowel shift in English has no known (not by me, anyhow) analog in the evolution of organisms, and the heavy lateral transfer of French words into English hasn’t been seen in eukaryotes since, well, eukaryotes arose–perhaps partly arising because of massive transfers of bacterial genes into archaea, or possibly vice-versa (the former seems to be favored). So English doesn’t analogize especially well with the usual eukaryotic phylogenies in that way, but that’s hardly a mystery.

    Glen Davidson

  23. Gregory,

    Thanks for reminding me of the previous arguments. Let me comment quickly on the extended abstract by Walkden, point by point, shortening Walkden’s points:

    1. It is impossible to equate languages with species (Dalby 2002: chapter 1; Lightfoot 2002): while the latter is precisely understood due to the biological species concept (Dobzhansky 1937; Mayr 1942), the former is not even definable.

    Languages are not species, but they are some kind of entity, which is all we need to model their change.

    2. Unlike biological evolution (Gould 1987: 167–173), linguistic change is in no sense ‘progress’

    Biological evolution does not necessarily involve “progress” either. It is mostly laypeople who think it does.

    3. Linguists are unable to agree on how even the basic notions of biological evolution and natural selection, such as what is selected and what is selected for, as well as ‘fitness’, can be cashed out in linguistic terms

    The inference of language genealogies does not need to assume that change is due to any analogue of natural selection, so this need not worry us.

    4. If mental grammars are analogous to genotypes, then linguistic ‘evolution’, unlike biological evolution, is Lamarckian (Haspelmath 1999: 193): features acquired during the lifespan can be passed on to the next generation. The process of transmission of grammars – via usage – is also very different to the transmission of DNA (via transcription).

    True, but the use of models of random change does not depend on the change not being inheritance of acquired characters.

    So we need not have an exact analogy between biological evolution and language change to be able to use for languages the same general logic that is used in inferring genealogies of biological species.

    Blas is right to say that language change is not biological evolution. Blas is wrong in the implied point that this invalidates the use of a similar logic in inferring genealogies of languages and of species.

  24. Come on evolutionists. Stop evading the embarrassment. Language origins evolving has failed amongst people who easily can imagine bugs becoming buffaloes.
    As i said its impossible to have a thinking ape evolving without evolving language at the same time. Language is just the desire/need to use sounds to express thoughts.
    never would a smarter ape be content with grunts. Never would a grunting ape suddenly get smarter.
    intelligence is the origin of the intelligence of language. just as the bible implies.

    Languages come from profound human motivations and so their change is not like species changing even on evolution models.
    language change was general and was like a creator impacting nature.
    Complicated and quickly.
    where are the mutations in language change?
    what of selection on these mutations?
    No human free will at all???
    Creationism does a better job on language essence and origin then the other guys.

  25. velikovskys:

    Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

    True. But is a pipe always a pipe?

    To keep my posting license, I’d better post something on topic.

    The 3 Quarks Daily site from Wednesday had this link to a conference Dan Dennett organized on Cultural Evolution.

  26. Wow, it seems like there’s nothing that Dennett hasn’t opined on. I recently read something by him on computer music.

  27. Robert Byers,

    Robert, I don’t think anyone cares what you find impossible to imagine.

    Argument from incredulity is among the most boring kinds of argument.

  28. walto:
    Wow, it seems like there’s nothing that Dennett hasn’t opined on.I recently read something by him on computer music.

    Indeed. In 1998 Dennett gave the prestigious John Danz lecture at our university. His title was “Is Evolution an Algorithmic Process?”  He said a lot of cool things and gave a lot of cool examples. In fact, you can watch his lecture, which someone has posted to Youtube (the first part is here).

    You will find that (a) he never defines what “an algorithmic process” is, and so of course (b) he never gives any proof that evolution is “an algorithmic process”. Or that it isn’t. But the audience was appreciative, in spite of that.

  29. Maybe a YEC creationist can reshape this thread.
    Why does evolutionism see language as a product of human evolution?
    Why is it not just more sounds being memorized/used relative to animals?
    Why not then simply conclude the origin of language is based on human intellectual uniqueness and growth?
    Why is this not obvious?
    Can the creationist accuse evolution of INSTEAD saying language is a special human trait demanding a special evolution???
    Summers over and schools starting.

  30. Robert Byers: Why is it not just more sounds being memorized/used relative to animals?

    That would be consistent with evolution, so I’m not sure of your point.

    The evidence is that there are parts of the brain that are specialized for language. So it can’t just be memorization of more sounds.

  31. Neil Rickert: That would be consistent with evolution, so I’m not sure of your point.

    The evidence is that there are parts of the brain that are specialized for language.So it can’t just be memorization of more sounds.

    Its not about evolution in this matter I think.
    I would say there is no evidence for parts of the brain being specialized.
    Any such part is just a part of the memory operations.
    sure its just more memorization of sounds. Its that simple.
    why not?

  32. I just reread on the discovery webpage about this very subject. folks here should seek it out.
    They quoted this Chomsky guy. He says its not about a rising intelligence that explains the origin of human language. Yet he says its not from modelling on animal communication either.
    Yet his whole error is indeed not understanding the power of human memory including in children.
    It is just sounds that have been memorized/agreed too , that is the only difference between us and creatures.
    It is because of our intelligence . Yet the mechanism is the use of our memory to express our superior thoughts. Wearethatgood.
    Our sounds/language really simply are within the continuum of all loud biology.
    We simply, being made in gods image, are vastly more smart and vastly more use our memory for organizing sounds to express.
    its not a mystery.
    by the way even evolutionism shouldn’t find it a mmystery.
    it shows once again the dismissal of the power of the memory in mans life.
    The memory is all and NOT just a minor tool for man. We are thinkers and then use the memory.

  33. Robert Byers: I would say there is no evidence for parts of the brain being specialized.

    OK, then.

    Robert Byers: We simply, being made in gods image, are vastly more smart and vastly more use our memory for organizing sounds to express.
    its not a mystery.

    I know, right? The mystery is why we can’t fly and see through solid objects!

  34. Robert Byers,

    I would say there is no evidence for parts of the brain being specialized.

    Huh? So when a similar lesion in the same part in different people causes the same effect, that’s not evidence of that part being specialised?

    It is just sounds that have been memorized/agreed too , that is the only difference between us and creatures.

    Hardly. There’s a whole chunk of brain to go with it. The relationship between language and intelligence is a 2-way street. Language is not just used for interpersonal communication; we use it when we chew over problems. We converse with ourselves. It is hard to visualise rational thought at any significant level without language. The two capacities likely evolved in tandem, mutually reinforcing, with evident survival benefits. Language need not be merely be seen as a group-level selective force.

  35. Allan Miller,

    I agree language and intelligence are hand in glove. That was my point as to why evolution fails, and some admit it, to explain the evolution of language.
    Indeed they must agree intelligence came first, at least by weeks, and not first grunts followed by getting smarter.

    I say the brain is nothing more then a hugh memory machine.
    So its fine if a same place lesion equals the same results in problems.
    Its not the brain but rather the area where the memory is interacting with the body.
    Its our soul connected to our memory connected to our body.
    Every “brain ” problem can be explained as a interference with the memory.

    I’m not sure we converse with ourselves in our language.
    It seems to me I do. Yet since language is learned then ones thoughts must be separate from ones language at entry level point.
    I think simply our memory is so fantastic it SEEMS like we think in our particular language. However its just lightspeed fast.
    I think researchers also would say our thoughts are not created in our language but follow quickly only.
    The whole thread was about evolutionists frustrated by the origin of language from evolutions presumptions.
    Rightly it fails but they miss a bigger point.
    language really is just like animals.
    We simply are so intelligent and have such great memories that it would seem our language is different from grunting critters.
    Its not in its anatomy at all.
    They miss the power of memory alongside a thinking intelligent being.

  36. Kantian Naturalist:
    Needless to say, there are many books on the evolution of human language and intelligence.Here’s one of the latest: A Natural History of Human Thinking by Michael Tomasello.I haven’t read it myself but I plan to do so within the next few weeks.

    Since they are not based on biblical boundaries they already miss.
    Then i find them to be wrong because they miss that memory is all we are except for a immaterial thinking soul.
    They see people as brain parts and so fail to explain and heal possibly.

  37. I had some spare time and I found the book intriguing, so I started and finished A Natural History of Human Thinking. It’s not bad, and I like what he’s trying to do, but it was somewhat disappointing both philosophically and empirically.

    On the empirical side, his evidence-base consists of (a) psychology experiments with captive great apes and (b) psychology experiments with Western, middle-class infants and children. That’s a rather slender base on which to build an account of the evolution of human cognition. There’s no cross-cultural, paleontological, or neurological evidence.

    On the philosophical side, his theoretical framework is mostly informed by Wittgenstein, Brandom, and Searle — with a bit of Vygostky thrown in. I think his approach would have been better off if he’d taken into account criticisms of the Brandomian approach, esp. those by Joe Rouse (How Scientific Practices Matter) and Rebecca Kukla and Mark Lance (Yo! and Lo!). He’s giving an account of the evolution of human cognition, but he says nothing about actual biological evolution during this period — all mind, no bodies.

    That said, here’s the basis idea. He claims that great apes possess “individual intentionality”: they are intentional beings that act on the basis of their beliefs and desires. They are able to think, insofar as they make inferences about causal relations (in the physical domain) and intentional relations (in the social domain), including what he calls “protoconditionals” and “protonegation.” However, he claims that great ape sociality is primarily competitive. (I do wonder if field research supports this — he only works with captive apes. I bet human prisoners are pretty competitive, too.) By contrast, he thinks that human sociality is primarily cooperative. Whence the evolution of cooperation?

    The answer lies, he thinks, in what he calls “the shared intentionality hypothesis” — how we are able to “collectivize” our intentions, beliefs, and desires by agreements, and by arguments. There are two distinct stages to this, one that characterizes early Homo and that’s found in children around 1 year old and older, and another that characterizes modern Homo and that’s found in children around 3 years old and older. (So there’s more “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” going on here than I’m comfortable with — he could have gotten around that if he’d thought more about the evolution of childhood itself.)

    The first stage is “joint intentionality”, in which two hominids share their intentions in order to accomplish a goal important to both of them — such as hunting a gazelle or finding water. (Great apes are not good at cooperative hunting, even though chimpanzees will hunt monkeys when they can.) This kind of intentionality has an “I-You” structure to it. The second stage is “collective intentionality” , which has an “I-We” structure — here, for the first time, the individual subordinates his or her intentions to the norms of the group as a whole and thereby achieves normative self-governance — as distinct from the cognitive self-monitoring that great apes also have. The emergence of collective intentionality from joint intentionality, and the ‘proper function’ (in Millikan’s sense) of collective intentionality, explains why language has the features that it does.

    I find the basic account quite compelling, but the book is much too short, and since he only considers psychology (actually, it’s a bit worse than that — most of his evidence consists of the psychology that’s come out of his own lab!), the generalizations are questionable.

  38. Robert Byers: Since they are not based on biblical boundaries they already miss.

    I know. I was turned off by their absurd view that the Earth is round and that the heart pumps blood. Where do they get these stupid non-Bible-bounded ideas? If they’d just focus on the goddam Bible, they might learn something and we’d all be better off.

  39. walto: Hey, thanks for that review, KN! Appreciate your time and trouble to publish that here.

    You’re quite welcome. Another aspect of the Brandomian theoretical orientation I hadn’t mentioned is that there’s actually quite a bit of Sellars in Tomasello’s book. Specifically, Tomasello understands himself to be giving an account of the evolutionary emergence of “the space of reasons” (Sellars) or “the game of giving and asking for reasons” (Brandom). Since that’s an account that Sellars wanted to give but wasn’t able to, and that Brandom is unable to give because of deeply problematic assumptions he’s explicitly committed to, Tomasello’s book is fairly important contribution — even if his account does not completely withstand scrutiny.

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