Resources for Communication Problems

Wednesday, January 23, 2008




The biological history of language is “covert”; its evolution is hidden in the series of transformations, structural and functional, that took place in the course of the formation of modern man. It is tied to the history of physiological adaptations, cognitive specializations, and sensory specifications.

By “uk-uk-theory”is meant all of those accounts in which the beginning of language is characterized as the discovery that the original animal evocations (such as a supposed “uk-uk”) could be used for transmitting information to other individuals.

The evolutionary process underlying language is analogous to the geometric transformations of form, described by D’Arcy Thompson, or perhaps comparable to the changes in allometric tendencies in different species. Some earlier functions seem to have been transformed to subserve communication.

Our present capacity for language may well go back to species-specific alterations in genetic material (intracellular changes) which, however, affected certain rates and directions of growth during ontogeny (temporo-spatial gradients), producing a peculiar ontogenetic phase of an optimal confluence of various abilities; thus a critical period for language acquisition might have come about. This is not just a matter of protracted infancy; during a given period various types of facilitations and inhibitions are at an optimum constellation (including something we might call, for lack of a better term, perhaps, cerebral plasticity).Therefore, the artificial retardation of a chimpanzee’s development could not bring about language capacity because it would simply slow down, that is, change the time scale of chimpanzee’s ontogeny but would not introduce the peculiar and necessary overlaps that we may assume to play a role in language acquisition.

Pedigrees and twin studies suggest that genetic transmission is relevant to language facilitation. However, there is no need to assume “genes for language.”

The biological history of language cannot be revealed through a random comparison with animal communication ; this is particularly so if the basis of comparison is pragmatic or “ logical ” and without regard to the animals’ phylogenetic relation to man. Comparison of language with animal communication beyond the order of primates is dangerous because of the phenomenon of convergence.

Reconstruction of the origin of language is impossible except for some very simple determinations. This is because of the following limitations: (1) the size and shape of the brain furnish no secure clue about the capacity for language; (2) given morphological peculiarities of the central nervous system do not bear a fixed relationship to behavior; the same cerebral feature may promote somewhat different aspects of behavior in different species, and vice versa; the relation of behavior to certain aspects of the brain may have undergone several changes during the course of evolution of modern man;(3)even if we had direct knowledge of social structure or cultural complexity of the societies of various fossil men, we could not draw conclusions about language as we know it today. Different types of communication might have prevailed at those times.

The identical capacity for language among all races suggests that this phenomenon must have existed before racial diversification.

There is nothing unbiological about recognizing language as unique behavior in the animal kingdom; such uniqueness is to be expected form the evolutionary process as well as form genetic mechanisms.


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語言在生物的歷史中是「隱蔽的」; 它的演變隱藏在一系列變化,結構和功能的發生在現代人形成過程。它被歷史上的生理適應、認知專業化和知覺規格束縛著。


我們的當前語言的容量可能回復到基因物質上,個體特異性的變化 (細胞內變動),然而,成長受到一定比率和方向的影響(時間-空間的梯度),導致各式各樣的最佳能力出現於一個特別的個體發育階段;因而一個語言習得的臨界期也許已經出現。這不僅是延長的初期事情;在特定時期內,各種各樣的類型的易使性和禁止在一個最佳的星群(包括某事我們也許這樣稱呼,大腦可塑性)。所以,黑猩猩的發展的遲緩不可能達到語言容量,因為它將減速,我們也許假設在語言習得扮演一個角色,但不會在改變黑猩猩的個體發生學時間表上介紹奇特和必要的交疊。


語言的生物歷史不可能由一個任意比較的動物溝通而被顯露出; 如果比較的依據是重實效或「邏輯」和不考慮動物的種系發生。在與靈長目層級之外的動物做溝通語言比較,由於聚焦的現象是危險的

重建語言的起源是不可能的,除非某些非常簡單的決心。這是由於以下限制:(1)關於語言容量,腦子的大小和形狀無法提供安全線索;(2)神經系統的特定形態特異,無法負擔一個行為的固定關係; 在不同的種類中同一大腦特定點也許促進某些不同的行為,反之亦然;(3)即使我們有社會結構的直接知識或各式各樣已成化石人的複雜社會文化,我們不能像今日所知的語言來做總結。不同類型的溝通方式也許已經盛行於那些時代。


在動物界裡沒一件非生物性的相關性像認知語言一樣為獨一的行為; 這樣唯一性是化過程中被期望的形式如同基因機制形式。

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