The significance of linguistic ability to animal operations

A form of hemoglobin used to test blood sugars over a period of time.

The significance of linguistic ability to animal operations

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This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Understanding the evolution of language requires evidence regarding origins and processes that led to change.

In the last 40 years, there has been an explosion of research on this problem as well as a sense that considerable progress has been made.

Introduction

We argue instead that the richness of ideas is accompanied by a poverty of evidence, with essentially no explanation of how and why our linguistic computations and representations evolved.

We show that, to date, 1 studies of nonhuman animals provide virtually no relevant parallels to human linguistic communication, and none to the underlying biological capacity; 2 the fossil and archaeological evidence does not inform our understanding of the computations and representations of our earliest ancestors, leaving details of origins and selective pressure unresolved; 3 our understanding of the genetics of language is so impoverished that there is little hope of connecting genes to linguistic processes any time soon; 4 all modeling attempts have made unfounded assumptions, and have provided no empirical tests, thus leaving any insights into language's origins unverifiable.

Based on the current state of evidence, we submit that the most fundamental questions about the origins and evolution of our linguistic capacity remain as mysterious as ever, with considerable uncertainty about the discovery of either relevant or conclusive evidence that can adjudicate among the many open hypotheses.

We conclude by presenting some suggestions about possible paths forward. Within the past 40 or so years, however, writings on this subject have exploded Lieberman, ; Bickerton, ; Pinker and Bloom, ; Jackendoff, ; Fitch, ; Hurford,implying that hard evidence has outpaced speculation.

This perspective, shared by many, is due in part to the emergence of new techniques to study animal social behavior, decipher the fossil record, map genomes, and model evolutionary processes.

The significance of linguistic ability to animal operations

The sheer abundance and public visibility of such studies, including claims of human-like cognition in birds and primates, along with talking Neanderthals, might suggest that important strides have been made in understanding the origins of human language, its precursors in other animals, the selective pressures that led to its design features and adaptive significance, as well as its genetic underpinnings.

We argue instead that both scientists and journalists have rushed to premature conclusions based on woefully incomplete or absent evidence. We begin with a brief case study to illustrate how biologists typically study the evolution of a behavioral phenotype.

We then turn to a discussion of the language phenotype, including its core biological computations and representations. Next, we discuss four approaches to the evolution of language: In each section, we state why we consider the evidence inconclusive or irrelevant.

We conclude with a brief set of empirical desiderata for moving forward, noting the limitations that lie ahead, at least for the foreseeable future. How to study the evolution of a trait Understanding biological evolution requires distinguishing patterns and processes, dissecting potential contributions from both random and non-random mechanisms including genetic drift, migration, selection, developmental unfolding, and genetic constraints.

Rarely do biologists have access to all of the relevant evidence, and this is especially true for higher vertebrates and the complicated social behaviors they exhibit.

When it comes to human language evolution, the paucity of relevant evidence is significant and, as we discuss below, the potential for acquiring such evidence is completely closed off in some relevant areas of inquiry e.

Playback experiments show that males add chucks in response to the calls of other males and that females prefer calls with chucks.

Thus, males gain a reproductive benefit by making complex calls, while females gain a reproductive advantage from mating with larger males who fertilize more eggs. The reproductive gain to males is, however, partially offset by the attractiveness of chucks to frog-eating bats.

The chucks are generated by large larynges with pendulous masses extending from the vocal folds. The tuning of the female's two inner ear organs, the AP amphibian papilla and BP basilar papillamatch the dominant frequencies of the whine and chuck, respectively, and the BP tuning is better matched to and thus more stimulated by the lower-frequency chucks of larger males than their higher-pitched conspecifics Ryan et al.

In sum, we know how these frogs communicate, the fitness costs and benefits of communication, the phylogenetic distribution of key traits, and details of the mechanisms underlying signal production, perception, and behavioral response.the ability to meta model (build a model of a model) the user; consequently, matching the mental model of the user with that of the designer’s and, coincidentally, forming rapport between the two participants.

Thomas Aquinas (/6—) St. Thomas Aquinas was a Dominican priest and Scriptural theologian. He took seriously the medieval maxim that “grace perfects and builds on nature; it does not set it aside or destroy it.”.

The Gift of Language and Culture Project_Instructional Curriculum

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The significance of linguistic ability to animal operations

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