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Why Only UsLanguage and Evolution$
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Robert C. Berwick and Noam Chomsky

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034241

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034241.001.0001

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Triangles in the Brain

Triangles in the Brain

(p.109) 4 Triangles in the Brain
Why Only Us

Robert C. Berwick

Noam Chomsky

The MIT Press

This chapter examines the what, who, where, when, how, and why of language and its evolution. It first considers Alfred Russel Wallace's views about natural selection before expounding on the “what” question, focusing on language's three components: the first is “CPU,” which encompasses the basic compositional operation, Merge; the second and third are interfaces to the sensorimotor and conceptual-intentional systems. The last two components map from the structures Merge assembles to systems of “externalization” and “internalization.” The chapter then explores the computation of hierarchical structure before comparing birdsong and language in other nonhuman animals with the externalization sound system of human languages. It also addresses the question of where and when the Basic Property of language first appeared, how the Basic Property is actually implemented in neural circuitry, and why humans have language at all.

Keywords:   evolution, Merge, externalization, internalization, hierarchical structure, birdsong, natural selection, human language, language, neural circuitry

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