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Biological Foundations and Origin of Syntax$
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Derek Bickerton and Eörs Szathmáry

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780262013567

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262013567.001.0001

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The Biological Background of Syntax Evolution

The Biological Background of Syntax Evolution

(p.14) (p.15) 2 The Biological Background of Syntax Evolution
Biological Foundations and Origin of Syntax

Fedor Anna

Ittzés Péter

Szathmáry Eörs

The MIT Press

Language is difficult to understand because nothing is known about how it is processed in the brain. Many areas of the human brain play a role in language-related activities such as syntactic operations. Aspects of the language faculty have significant heritability and there seems to have been positive selection for enhanced linguistic ability in human evolution. Evolution may have accelerated, rather than slowed down, due to pleiotropic effects. In particular, genes could have changed in the course of evolution to increase the proficiency of the human brain in linguistic processing. This chapter examines some key findings and ideas concerning the genetics, neurobiology, and evolution of the “language problem.” It also proposes a model for a minimalist neural network parsing context-free grammar and considers arguments in favor of a human-specific adaptive suite.

Keywords:   language, human brain, evolution, language faculty, genetics, neurobiology, language problem, context-free grammar, neural network

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