Language: UG or Not to Be, That Is the Question
Author(s)Bolhuis, Johan J.; Tattersall, Ian; Berwick, Robert C.; Chomsky, Avram Noam
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Lieberman’s commentary  nicely illustrates our original argument  that analysis of language evolution is complicated by a lack of agreement about the concepts of both “language” and “evolution.” Here we address each in turn. First, Lieberman argues against the existence of a language faculty in the sense in which we defined it: a domain- and species-specific computational cognitive system that can generate arbitrarily complex hierarchical syntactic structure. In contrast, Lieberman defines language functionally, as a means of “communication,” with human speech as a “key attribute.” However, as we originally argued , while externalized language may be used for communication, the two cannot be equated. Language is a computational operation occurring in the mind of an individual, independent of its possible communicative use, while speech is one possible externalization of language (among others such as sign) and is not an essential aspect of it. Lieberman’s arguments are a prime example of fallaciously confounding the function(s) of a trait with its mechanism [3,4].
DepartmentMassachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Public Library of Science
Bolhuis, Johan J., Ian Tattersall, Noam Chomsky, and Robert C. Berwick. “Language: UG or Not to Be, That Is the Question.” PLOS Biology 13, no. 2 (February 13, 2015): e1002063.
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