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Biological Foundations and Origin of Syntax - MIT Press Scholarship Online
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Biological Foundations and Origin of Syntax

Derek Bickerton and Eörs Szathmáry


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. The book follows through on a growing consensus among researchers that language can be profitably separated into a number of related and ... More

Keywords: syntax, language, animals, evolutionary transition, linguistics, neurology, neurobiology, cognitive psychology, ecology, evolutionary biology

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2009 Print ISBN-13: 9780262013567
Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: August 2013 DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262013567.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Derek Bickerton, editor

Eörs Szathmáry, editor

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2 The Biological Background of Syntax Evolution

Fedor Anna, Ittzés Péter, and Szathmáry Eörs


7 What Kinds of Syntactic Phenomena Must Biologists, Neurobiologists, and Computer Scientists Try to Explain and Replicate?

Tallerman Maggie, Newmeyer Frederick, Bickerton Derek, Bouchard Denis, Kaan Edith, and Rizzi Luigi


8 Possible Precursors of Syntactic Components in Other Species

Hilliard Austin T., and White Stephanie A.

10 What Are the Possible Biological and Genetic Foundations for Syntactic Phenomena?

Számadó Szabolcs, Hurford James R., Bishop Dorothy V. M., Deacon Terrence W., d’Errico Francesco, Fischer Julia, Okanoya Kazuo, Szathmáry Eörs, and White Stephanie A.


11 Brain Circuits of Syntax

Friederici Angela D.

14 What Are the Brain Mechanisms Underlying Syntactic Operations?

Fedor Anna, Pléh Csaba, Brauer Jens, Caplan David, Friederici Angela D., Gulyás Balázs, Hagoort Peter, Nazir Tatjana, and Singer Wolf


15 Syntax as an Adaptation to the Learner

Kirby Simon, H. Christiansen Morten, and Chater Nick

18 What Can Mathematical, Computational, and Robotic Models Tell Us about the Origins of Syntax?

Jaeger Herbert, Steels Luc, Baronchelli Andrea, Briscoe Ted, H. Christiansen Morten, Griffiths Thomas, Jäger Gerhard, Kirby Simon, L. Komarova Natalia, J. Richerson Peter, and Triesch Jochen