LINGUIST List 32.3531

Mon Nov 08 2021

Books: Reflections on language evolution: Boeckx

Editor for this issue: Billy Dickson <>

Date: 19-Oct-2021
From: Sebastian Nordhoff <>
Subject: Reflections on language evolution: Boeckx
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Title: Reflections on language evolution
Subtitle: From minimalism to pluralism
Series Title: Conceptual Foundations of Language Science
Published: 2021
Publisher: Language Science Press

Book URL:

Author: Cedric Boeckx
Electronic: ISBN: 9783961103287 Pages: 76 Price: Europe EURO 0 Comment: Open Access

This essay reflects on the fact that as we learn more about the biological underpinnings of our language faculty, the dominant evolutionary narrative coming out of the linguistic tradition most explicitly oriented towards biology ("biolinguistics") appears increasingly implausible. This text offers ways of opening up linguistic inquiry and fostering interdisciplinarity, taking advantage of new opportunities to provide quantitative, testable hypotheses concerning the complex evolutionary path that led to the modern human language faculty.

The essay is structured around three main themes:

(i) renewed appreciation for the comparative method applied to cognitive questions, leading to the identification of elementary but fundamental abstractions in non-linguistic species relevant to language;

(ii) awareness of the conceptual gaps between disciplines, and the need to carefully link genotype and phenotype without bypassing any "intermediate" levels of description (certainly not the brain); and

(iii) adoption of a "philosophical" outlook that puts the complexity of biological entities front and center.

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science

Written In: English (eng)

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Page Updated: 08-Nov-2021