What is Language and How Could it Have Evolved?
Author(s)Bolhuis, Johan J.; Beckers, Gabriel J. L.; Huybregts, Marinus A. C.; Berwick, Robert C; Everaert, Martin B. H.
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Unraveling the evolution of human language is no small enterprise. One could start digging somewhere in the largely unobservable past, working forwards to the present, hoping to surface in the right spot. Alternatively, one could start with the currently observed and well-established properties of human language, the phenotype of language, and work backwards, with these ‘knowns’ guiding the search for otherwise speculative historical ‘unknowns’. In a recent issue of Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Corballis  appears confident that only the first strategy will serve. Evolutionary explanations necessarily are historical, but few evolutionary biologists faced with such a paucity of historical evidence would forge ahead without first defining what, exactly, the phenotype is that ultimately evolved . Yet, Corballis criticizes what we actually know about the human language phenotype, because it does not conform to his speculations . We believe that Corballis’ odd research inversion suffers from misconceptions regarding what we know about both language and evolution.
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Trends in Cognitive Sciences
Bolhuis, Johan J. et al. "What is Language and How Could it Have Evolved?" Trends in Cognitive Sciences 21, 8 (June 2017): P569-571 © 2017 Elsevier Ltd
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