Interdisciplinary perspectives on the evolutionary and biological roots of syntax, describing current research on syntax in fields ranging from linguistics to neurology.
Syntax is arguably the most human-specific aspect of language. Despite the proto-linguistic capacities of some animals, syntax appears to be the last major evolutionary transition in humans that has some genetic basis. Yet what are the elements to a scenario that can explain such a transition? In this book, experts from linguistics, neurology and neurobiology, cognitive psychology, ecology and evolutionary biology, and computer modeling address this question. Unlike most previous work on the evolution of language, Biological Foundations and Origin of Syntax follows through on a growing consensus among researchers that language can be profitably separated into a number of related and interacting but largely autonomous functions, each of which may have a distinguishable evolutionary history and neurological base. The contributors argue that syntax is such a function.The book describes the current state of research on syntax in different fields, with special emphasis on areas in which the findings of particular disciplines might shed light on problems faced by other disciplines. It defines areas where consensus has been established with regard to the nature, infrastructure, and evolution of the syntax of natural languages; summarizes and evaluates contrasting approaches in areas that remain controversial; and suggests lines for future research to resolve at least some of these disputed issues.
ContributorsAndrea Baronchelli, Derek Bickerton, Dorothy V. M. Bishop, Denis Bouchard, Robert Boyd, Jens Brauer, Ted Briscoe, David Caplan, Nick Chater, Morten H. Christiansen, Terrence W.Deacon, Francesco d'Errico, Anna Fedor, Julia Fischer, Angela D. Friederici, Tom Givón, Thomas Griffiths, Balázs Gulyás, Peter Hagoort, Austin Hilliard, James R. Hurford, Péter Ittzés, Gerhard Jäger, Herbert Jäger, Edith Kaan, Simon Kirby, Natalia L. Komarova, Tatjana Nazir, Frederick Newmeyer, Kazuo Okanoya, Csaba Plèh, Peter J. Richerson, Luigi Rizzi, Wolf Singer, Mark Steedman, Luc Steels, Szabolcs Számadó, Eörs Szathmáry, Maggie Tallerman, Jochen Triesch, Stephanie Ann White