Start your review of Language and Species Write a review Sep 25, Enrique rated it really liked it A classical book on language evolution. I read it after Adams Tongue from the same author and even though it predates the later by around 20 years I found some of the ideas on this book to be of a deeper nature. Definitely a classic in language evolution and very much an enjoyable read today. The view of Derek is that all animals have a primary representation system that allows them to conceptualize the sensory input and also run inferences and decision making processes based on that. But humans A classical book on language evolution. But humans are the only one as far as we know that have a secondary representation system, with which they represent the PRS concept and manipulate them.
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Start your review of Language and Species Write a review Sep 25, Enrique rated it really liked it A classical book on language evolution. I read it after Adams Tongue from the same author and even though it predates the later by around 20 years I found some of the ideas on this book to be of a deeper nature. Definitely a classic in language evolution and very much an enjoyable read today.
The view of Derek is that all animals have a primary representation system that allows them to conceptualize the sensory input and also run inferences and decision making processes based on that. But humans A classical book on language evolution. But humans are the only one as far as we know that have a secondary representation system, with which they represent the PRS concept and manipulate them.
The appearance of the SRS is what enabled language, conscience, and a dramatic alteration of the environment. He described which elements may have appeared gradually protolanguage, of the kind that you can teach chimpanzees but unable of Gavin recursive syntax; vocal tract control, etc. Years ago, I read this book, and crashed headlong into one of these ideas.
The idea was this: We use language to communicate, and its no doubt our most important invention. But communication isnt what language is, its what language does. Language is a system of representation. Okay, whats that mean, and whats important about it? First off, You only run into a few really important ideas in your life, and you tend to remember them, if not always exactly when and where they were first heard or read.
First off, we never get a raw, uncensored, completely undistorted, true version of reality. Reality is always filtered by the ways in which we access it through our senses. Bickerton called this knowledge gained through our senses our primary representational system, or PRS. Almost every type of creature has one, and they are all different. The PRS is the combination of sensory mechanisms that lets us see, touch, hear, and feel the world around us.
Bats use echolocation to navigate. Some fish utilize electric fields to locate their prey. Birds use the magnetic field of the earth to navigate. But when humans developed language, we got a secondary representational system. We still receive all our primary information through our senses, but the SRS allowed us to make representations about the things we sensed.
It made our reality symbolic; it permitted us to communicate, to create narratives, and tell stories about what we sensed of reality. Our models of reality became more complex and accurate, which made the likelihood of survival greater. Communication was important, but language taught us a new way to think. It also eventually brought a new form of consciousness, self-consciousness.
By allowing us to model reality offline, so to speak, it encouraged and broadened planning and imagination. Bickerton discovers parallels between childhood language acquisition, ape symbol use, protolanguage, and the way pidgins develop into creoles, to draw other startling conclusions about language and thought.
He speculates on the probable origin of protolanguage, likely in Homo erectus, traces the development of grammar, and shows why syntax would have been the last vital step toward modern language, communication, and representation. The sections on grammar and syntax are sometimes tough sledding but worth it. Highest recommendation for this language classic.
Examples include merchant seamen in distant ports and, historically, slaves in the West Indies. This theory states that the structural similarity between many creole languages must arise from an innate capacity in the brain. Animal communications are holistic and limited, e. By contrast, human communications are complex and unlimited. How did one evolve from the other? The theory of evolution states that features do not arise de novo but must be built incrementally upon something already in existence, but how can something infinite arise from something finite? This is known as the Continuity Paradox.
Language and Species by Bickerton
For twenty-four years he was a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Hawaii , having meanwhile received a Ph. He is the father of contemporary artist Ashley Bickerton. The NSF deemed the proposed experiment unethical and refused to fund it. In Language and Species , he suggests that all three questions might be answered by postulating that the origin of language can be traced to the evolution of representation systems and symbolic thinking, together with a later development of formal syntax. Using primitive communication faculties, which then evolved in parallel, mental models became shared representations subject to cultural evolution. In Lingua ex Machina , he and William Calvin revise this speculative theory by considering the biological foundations of symbolic representation and their influence on the evolution of the brain.
Language & Species (1990), by Derek Bickerton
Language and Species