Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Creating LanguageIntegrating Evolution, Acquisition, and Processing$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Morten H. Christiansen and Nick Chater

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780262034319

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262034319.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 16 September 2021

Language as Shaped by the Brain

Language as Shaped by the Brain

Chapter:
(p.19) 2 Language as Shaped by the Brain
Source:
Creating Language
Author(s):

Morten H. Christiansen

Nick Chater

Publisher:
The MIT Press
DOI:10.7551/mitpress/9780262034319.003.0002

Chapter 2 starts by discussing research on language evolution, showing that the traditional notion that Universal Grammar is a biological endowment of abstract linguistic constraints can be ruled out on evolutionary grounds. Instead, it is argued that the fit between the mechanisms employed for language and the way in which language is acquired and used can be explained by processes of cultural evolution, shaped by the human brain. Drawing parallels with the reuse of pre-existing cortical brain circuits for recent human innovations such as reading and arithmetic, language is suggested to have evolved likewise by “piggybacking” on prior neural mechanisms, constrained by social and pragmatic considerations, the nature of our thought processes, perceptuo-motor factors, and limitations on learning, memory, and processing. Through cultural transmission involving repeated cycles of learning and use, these constraints have shaped the world’s languages into the diversity of forms we can observe today through linguistic adaptation.

Keywords:   Language evolution, Cultural transmission, Linguistic adaptation, Cultural evolution, No Universal Grammar

MIT Press Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs, and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us.