Friday, February 15, 2008

Speech perception system and vocal production in humans have been specially adapted for language

Shared Symbolic Storage Embodied Evolutionary-Developmental Computational Cognitive Neuroscience and other Stuff Thursday, February 14, 2008 Four Stone Hearth
By the way, the
34th Editition of the Four Stone Hearth Anthropology Carnnival is out over at Our Cultural World. Go check it out!P.S. Carnivàle also happens to be a really cool TV-Series. You should check it out, too. Posted by Michael at 15:18 0 comments Labels:

Language Evolution IV: HCF + PJ + FHC + JP =/= ♥
As could be expected, the framework established by HCF led to much criticism from proponents of what HCF called hypothesis 2. Thus, in 2005, Pinker and Jackendoff (PJ) responded to HCF by asking: “The faculty of language: what’s special about it?”

The controversy led to further discussion in the same year when Fitch, Hauser and Chomsky (FHC) defended their viewpoint in “The evolution of the language faculty: Clarifications and implications” and Jackendoff and Pinker renewed their disagreement debating “The nature of the language faculty and its implications for the evolution of language“.

PJ’s first critique mainly focuses on the “recursion-only claim” of HCF, because they feel that there is more that is special to language. Furthermore, they question that recursion evolved as an exaptation (Pinker/Jackendoff 2005: 205). They especially defend the “Speech is Special” (SiS) hypothesis posed by Alvin Liberman and others, which was rejected by HFC (Pinker/Jackendoff 2005: 206), because it seems that the speech perception system and vocal production in humans have been specially adapted for language (Pinker/Jackendoff 2005: 206-209), and not for vocal imitation or size exaggeration as HCF suggested (Pinker/Jackendoff 2005: 209f.)...

Thus, Pinker and Jackendoff’s framing of questions about language evolution would be of little scientific value (Fitch/Hauser/Chomsky 2005: 185f.) JP contradict this statement. In their view, current adaptation, "what the trait was selected for in the species being considered”, poses one of the biologically most interesting questions about a trait and can be addressed empirically by reverse-engineering or functional analysis, which is able to “shed light on its likely evolutionary history.” (Jackendoff/Pinker 2005: 212-214).

The debate regarding recursion heated up once again when Gentner et al. (2006) claimed to have found recursion-abilities in starlings, and Perruchet & Rey criticized Fitch and Hauser’s original experiment that established the inability of monekys to master “phrase structure grammars” (Fitch & Hauser 2004). Regarding the ability of recursion in starlings, these two posts are especially interesting. First this one by Mark Liberman, and the other, where David Beaver regards the recursion-abilities of starlings which in the respect of center-embedded grammars actually seem to be better than ours, and comes to the ironical conclusion that “we have firm and amazing evidence for a biologically unique language module. The trouble is, starlings have it, and we don't.” Other excellent post from the Language Log about HCF's claims can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

References: Hauser, Marc D., Noam Chomsky and W. Tecumseh Fitch 2002. “The Faculty of Language: What Is It, Who Has It, and How Did It Evolve?” In: Science 298, 1569-1579. Fitch, W. Tecumseh and Marc. D Hauser. 2004. “Computational Constraints on Syntactic Processing in a Nonhuman Primate” In: Science 303: 377-380 Fitch, W. Tecumseh, Marc D. Hauser and Noam Chomsky 2005. “The Evolution of the Language Faculty: Clarifications and Implications.” In: Cognition 97, 179-210. Jackendoff, Ray & Steven Pinker 2005. “The Nature of the Language Faculty and its Implications for Evolution of Language (Reply to Fitch, Hauser, and Chomsky).” In: Cognition 97, 211-225. Pinker, Steven & Ray Jackendoff 2005. “The Faculty of Language: What’s Special about it?” In: Cognition 95, 201-236. Posted by Michael at 11:44 0 comments Labels: ,

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