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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 Adaptive Approach to Grammar

The Adaptive Approach to Grammar

Chapter:
(p.88) (p.89) 5 The Adaptive Approach to Grammar
Source:
Biological Foundations and Origin of Syntax
Author(s):

Givón T.

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262013567.003.0005

This chapter focuses on the adaptive function of grammar (morpho-syntax) in its wider context, namely, that of human cognition and communication. It views the adaptive niche of grammar as a primary means of communication rather than mental representation. Specific communicative intents associated with morpho-syntactic constructions pertain to the mental representation, in the mind of the speaker-hearer, of the constantly shifting epistemic and deontic states of the interlocutor during ongoing communication. Hence, grammar is a streamlined, highly automated theory-of-mind processor. The rise and instantiation of universals of grammar can be attributed to the three developmental trends that shape human language: diachrony, ontogeny, and evolution. The chapter discusses the evolution of grammar in the context of the evolving cultural and communicative ecology of humans, along with the neurology of grammar and its putative evolution.

Keywords:   adaptive function, grammar, morpho-syntax, communication, cognition, mental representation, diachrony, ontogeny, evolution, neurology

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