A Biolinguistic Agenda
by Marc D. Hauser -mdh102559gmail.com
and Thomas Bever -email@example.com
November 14 2008 Science
Vol. 322. no. 5904, pp. 1057 - 1059
This short discussion is directed to furthering questions brought up in the second paragraph as the heart of the title article.
The idea advanced here is that perhaps more attention should be payed to animals that are very closely related genetically but of significantly different learning capability for the specific genetics of that difference.
- There are about 7000 living languages spoken in the world today, characterized by both exceptional diversity as well as significant similarities. Despite many controversies in the field, many linguistic scholars generally agree on two points
 Language as a system of knowledge is based on genetic mechanisms that create the similarities observed across different languages, culturally specific experience that shapes the particular language acquired, and developmental processes that
enable the growth and expression of linguistic knowledge.
 Also, the neural systems that allow us to acquire and process our knowledge of language are separate from those underlying our ability to communicate.
Below is a more detailed recasting of items 1 (above) and 2 (as a question) followed by discussion of perhaps some investigatable such differences.
1 - The 'universality of (human) knowledge' derives from genetic mechanisms which support the physiological registration of some of the various material properties of experience and of the relationals(*1) attaching that
2 - What (then) are the neural systems that make possible 'the ideation of such entities of experience' and the stringing together or 'deliberation' of such entities into potentially communicable 'knowledge'? -of perhaps even higher
(*2) The longer the evolutionary lineage of an animal -in general, the greater its capability for 'learning'.
For humans in particular, we generally identify the substance of that learning as 'knowledge'.
There is (then) an evolutionary sequence of 'successively higher-order circumstances or situations' that can generally be identified with the evolutionary lineage of 'any discrete animal capable of learning'.
3 - For lineages of primitively first, congregational life (i.e. 'sex') before the evolution of 'self-awareness' or 'communicability with another like me', there are (per Item 2 above) two situations generating 'knowledge and its
(a) Life-form alert to threat by another life-form -howl, screech et cetera.
(b) Indirectly calling attention to some on-going phenomenon by 'grunt', sight concentration or touch (more below) -to, in particular, what some other 'prosimian-forward' may be doing.
*4 - For lineages continuing into and beyond such things as 'empathy' and 'awareness of self' then, 'language' (per Item 2) evolves out of 'successively more meaningful grunts' capable of communicating successively higher-order
situations 'with another like me':
(c) 'I am doing this thing I happened to learn' -process 'happened upon'.
(d) 'You, there -doing what you are doing -look at what I'm doing' ... directed learning.
(e) 'When this happens, (it looks like) that happens' -the beginnings of deliberate observation.
(f) 'If I do this, then that happens' -the beginnings of deliberated activity.
(g) 'I wonder what happens if I do this' -deliberative capability.
5 - Clearly evolving through the above then is (a) a successively more complex brain of (eventually) successively more physiological convolution and (b) human language itself -which, therefore, cannot have evolved in the absence of
'a congregational someone in evolving communication' -a congregationally sexual someone in particular therefore.
6 - Farther down, the authors say-
Consider then that all 'general potential for learning' (above) is subject to channeling, supercession or even vestigialization by genetics developing the life-form into what it taxonomically unique is.
-Ontogeny does not recapitulate phylogeny.
Very likely then, the whole evolution of 'capability for learning' in warm-blooded vertebrates reflects the appearance of some kind of genetic seed making connectivity of successively higher-order relationals within the brain possible.
The relative limitation of further intellectual evolution in non-H-sapiens primates, in this respect, reflects constraints, so to speak, by 'the genetics of their thus-far taxanomic evolution'.
Very likely then, this is also true for the various hominid branches that died off along the evolutionary lineage of H sapiens.
And the explanation for its taking millions of years for H sapiens to evolve and manifest his present intellectual capabilities then, lies in the foregoing discussion.
- The biggest puzzle, however, is why nonhuman animals cannot integrate these computational capacities with their capacity to communicate. The biggest puzzle, however, is why nonhuman animals cannot integrate these computational capacities with
their capacity to communicate. The biggest puzzle, however, is why nonhuman animals cannot integrate these computational capacities with their capacity to communicate.
*1 - relational
(noun): a second-or-higher-order property which qualifies in a generally comparative way the relationship of a primitive or primary property common to two (or more) 'elements' of the configuration space: (eg)
left-right/up-down/front-back/ness or in/outside-ness of one thing with respect to another: difference/sameness, more/less-ness, absence (vs presence) of material/body, force, color, speed, sound, taste, smell, texture, dry/wetness et cetera; at 'higher
levels of vertebrate development', time: now- then- and next-ness for example, and repetition and temperament as in 'anger', 'attention' et cetera, and even 'immeasurable degrees of (such as) honesty and fairness' -and shape or geometric
pattern, and rhythm and 'musicality' -and changeability of relationals with time and space as a 'relational' itself as in 'the arts' eventually and mathematics too.
December 22, 2008
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