The Components of Language: What's Specific to Language, and What's Specific to Humans1

@inproceedings{Pinker2009TheCO,
  title={The Components of Language: What's Specific to Language, and What's Specific to Humans1},
  author={Steven Pinker and Ray Jackendoff},
  year={2009}
}
In the context of contemporary mentalist study of language, one way of couching the question of language universals is in terms of language acquisition: What components are universally available in the brains of language learners that make possible the relatively rapid acquisition of language? The present chapter addresses this question—the character of the human language capacity. We should be clear, however, that the answer to this question may not yield characteristics common to all human… 

Figures from this paper

Language as shaped by the brain.
TLDR
This work concludes that a biologically determined UG is not evolutionarily viable, and suggests that apparently arbitrary aspects of linguistic structure may result from general learning and processing biases deriving from the structure of thought processes, perceptuo-motor factors, cognitive limitations, and pragmatics.
The Effect of Non-Linguistic Patterns on Linguistic Biases
TLDR
The results suggest that exposure to non-linguistic materials can interact with linguistic judgments, and could be used to understand the ways in which linguistic knowledge is specific to language (domain specific) and general to other cognitive processes (domain general).
Trends in evolution of signals' interpretation as precursors of the origin of human language
TLDR
Focusing on signal interpretation makes it possible to construct a consistent model of language origin and provides a solution to the problem of honest communication emergence as well as a problem of gradual change.
Multimodal Transfer of Repetition Patterns in Artificial Grammar Learning
TLDR
Evidence is presented that learners are able to generalize learned patterns to novel stimuli with very different surface properties within and across modalities, which suggests that while learners will be able to extend learned pattern to novel patterns in other domains, factors such as familiarity and naturalness may privilege linguistic patterns over non-linguistic analogues.
Elmo's Sister's Ball: The Problem of Acquiring Nominal Recursion
TLDR
This work designs a study eliciting production of two level embedded prepositional and genitive NPs and finds children were comparable to adults in their ability to produce three coordinated NPs, but had substantial difficulty linking three NPs using recursion.
Evo-devo, deep homology and FoxP2: implications for the evolution of speech and language
  • C. Scharff, J. Petri
  • Biology
    Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
  • 2011
TLDR
Evidence that FoxP2 and its regulatory gene network shapes neural plasticity in cortico-basal ganglia circuits underlying the sensory-guided motor learning in animal models is reviewed to help understand how complex cognitive traits can ‘descend with modification’.
...
...

References

SHOWING 1-10 OF 118 REFERENCES
The faculty of language: what's special about it?
Language, Consciousness, Culture: Essays on Mental Structure
Ray Jackendoff's Language, Consciousness, Culture represents a breakthrough in developing an integrated theory of human cognition. It will be of interest to a broad spectrum of cognitive scientists,
Foundations of Language: Brain, Meaning, Grammar, Evolution
Foundations of Language shows one of the most fundamental new thinkings in linguistics since Noam Chomskyis Aspects of the Theory of Syntax in 1965. Foundations of Language opens up vivid new
Semantics and cognition.
TLDR
This article provides an overview from the vantage point of linguistic semantics of language-and-thought question across the various disciplines and sub-disciplines of cognitive science.
How children learn the meanings of words
How do children learn that the word "dog" refers not to all four-legged animals, and not just to Ralph, but to all members of a particular species? How do they learn the meanings of verbs like
Language as an adaptation to the cognitive niche
TLDR
In this chapter the design of the language faculty, the theory that language is an adaptation, alternatives to the theory, an examination of what language might an adaptation for, and how the theory is being tested by new kinds of analyses and evidence are discussed.
...
...