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(1) THE COGNITIVE PREREQUISITES FOR LANGUAGE (Burling) http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/psyc-bin/newpsy?10.032
(2) LANGUAGE EVOLUTION AND THE COMPLEXITY CRITERION (Bichakjian) http://www.cogsci.soton.ac.uk/psyc-bin/newpsy?10.033
The two target articles whose abstracts follow below were published today in PSYCOLOQUY, a refereed journal of Open Peer Commentary sponsored by the American Psychological Association. Qualified professional biobehavioral, neural or cognitive scientists are hereby invited to submit Open Peer Commentary on either or both articles. Please email or consult the journal's websites below for Instructions if you are not familiar with format or acceptance criteria for PSYCOLOQUY commentaries (all submissions are refereed).
To submit articles and commentaries or to seek information:
(1) THE COGNITIVE PREREQUISITES FOR LANGUAGE Target Article on Language-Prerequisites
Robbins Burling Department of Anthropology 1020 LSA Building University of Michigan Ann Arbor MI 48109 USA firstname.lastname@example.org
ABSTRACT: The first use of words by our early ancestors probably depended on four cognitive capacities: A rich conceptual understanding of the world around us; the ability to use and understand motivated signs, both icons and indices; the ability to imitate; the ability to infer the referential intentions of others. The latter three capacities are rare or absent in nonprimate mammals, but incipient in apes and well developed in modern humans. Before early humans could have begun to use words these capacities would have needed further development than is found in modern apes. It is not clear why selection favoured these skills more strongly in our ancestors than in the ancestors of apes.
(2) LANGUAGE EVOLUTION AND THE COMPLEXITY CRITERION Target Article on Language-Complexity
Bernard H. Bichakjian Department of French University of Nijmegen, The Netherlands Bichakjian@let.kun.nl http://welcome.to/bichakjian
ABSTRACT: Though it is increasingly accepted in the behavioral sciences, the evolutionary approach is still meeting resistance in linguistics. Linguists generally cling to the idea that alternative linguistic features are simply gratuitous variants of one another, while the advocates of innate grammars, who make room for evolution as a biological process, exclude the evolution of languages. The rationale given is that today's languages are all complex systems. This argument is based on the failure to distinguish between complexities of form and function. The proper analysis reveals instead that linguistic features have consistently decreased their material complexity, while increasing their functionality. A systematic historical survey will show instead that languages have evolved and linguistic features have developed along a Darwinian line. KEYWORDS: complexity, Indo-European, language evolution, lateralization, neoteny, word order.