In silico Evolutionary Developmental Neurobiology and the Origin of Natural Language (Abstract)

  title={In silico Evolutionary Developmental Neurobiology and the Origin of Natural Language (Abstract)},
  author={E{\"o}rs Szathm{\'a}ry},
It is justified to assume that part of our genetic endowment contributes to our language skills, yet it is impossible to tell at this moment exactly how genes affect the language faculty. We complement experimental biological studies by an in silico approach in that we simulate the evolution of neuronal networks under selection for language-related skills. At the heart of this project is the Evolutionary Neurogenetic Algorithm (ENGA) that is deliberately biomimetic. The design of the system was… 
Towards an Understanding of Language Origins
It is plausible that genes changed in evolution so as to render the human brain more proficient in linguistic processing, and an Evolutionary Neurogenetic Algorithm (ENGA) is reviewed that holds promise that the authors shall ultimately understand how genes can rig the development of cognitively specialised neuronal networks.
Biological Foundations and Origin of Syntax
The book defines areas where consensus has been established with regard to the nature, infrastructure, and evolution of the syntax of natural languages; summarizes and evaluates contrasting approaches in areas that remain controversial; and suggests lines for future research to resolve at least some of these disputed issues.
Evolution of Language as One of the Major Evolutionary Transitions
  • E. Szathmáry
  • Biology
    Evolution of Communication and Language in Embodied Agents
  • 2010
This chapter gives a summary showing that the transition from early hominine societies with protolanguage to modern society with language indeed qualifies as a major transition.
Emergence of Scale-Free Syntax Networks
A previously unreported, sharp transition is shown to occur around two years of age from a (pre-syntactic) tree-like structure to a scale-free, small world syntax network, which introduces a new ingredient to understand the possible biological endowment of human beings which results in the emergence of complex language.
The ontogeny of scale-free syntax networks through language acquisition
A previously unreported, sharp transition is shown to occur at ≈ 2 years from a tree-like structure to a scale-free, small world syntax network, suggesting the presence of an innate component pervading the emergence of full syntax.
The Ontogeny of Scale-Free Syntax Networks: Phase Transitions in Early Language Acquisition
The first analysis of the emergence of syntax in terms of complex networks is shown to occur around two years of age, showing a nonlinear dynamical pattern where the global topology of syntax graphs shifts from a hierarchical, tree-like pattern, to a scale-free organization.


On the design of neural networks in the brain by genetic evolution
Language, tools and brain: The ontogeny and phylogeny of hierarchically organized sequential behavior.
Chimpanzees have an identical constraint on hierarchical complexity in both tool use and symbol combination, which matches that of the two-year-old child who has not yet developed the neural circuits for complex grammar and complex manual combination of objects.
How did the human brain evolve? a proposal based on new evidence from in vivo brain imaging during attention and ideation
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  • Biology, Psychology
    Brain Research Bulletin
  • 1999
On the nature and evolution of the neural bases of human language.
  • P. Lieberman
  • Biology, Psychology
    American journal of physical anthropology
  • 2002
Data from studies of Broca's aphasia, Parkinson's disease, hypoxia, focal brain damage, and a genetically transmitted brain anomaly, and from comparative studies of the brains and behavior of other species demonstrate that the basal ganglia sequence the discrete elements that constitute a complete motor act, syntactic process, or thought process.
The genetic basis of cognition.
  • J. Flint
  • Biology
    Brain : a journal of neurology
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A comparison of studies of human and mouse mutations indicates the limitations of current genetic approaches to the understanding of human cognition, and a rapprochement between molecular and systems neuroscience is required.
[Are symbolic behaviour and neuroplasticity an example of gene-culture coevolution?].
The cognitive capacities characteristic in the Homo sapiens could be due to structural and functional changes during the brain evolution, rather than an increase of the brain size.
Lingua ex Machina: Reconciling Darwin and Chomsky with the Human Brain
A machine for language? Certainly, say the neurophysiologists, busy studying the language specializations of the human brain and trying to identify their evolutionary antecedents. Linguists such as
What does it take to evolve behaviorally complex organisms?
Molecular evolution of FOXP2, a gene involved in speech and language
It is shown that human FOXP2 contains changes in amino-acid coding and a pattern of nucleotide polymorphism, which strongly suggest that this gene has been the target of selection during recent human evolution.