The Faculty of Language: What’s Special About It?

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The Faculty of Language: What’s Special About It?

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dc.contributor.author Pinker, Steven
dc.contributor.author Jackendoff, Ray
dc.date.accessioned 2009-03-14T16:59:40Z
dc.date.issued 2005
dc.identifier.citation Pinker, Steven and Ray Jackendoff. 2005. The faculty of language: What’s special about it? Cognition 95(2): 201–236. en
dc.identifier.issn 0022-2860 en
dc.identifier.uri http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:2664286
dc.description.abstract We examine the question of which aspects of language are uniquely human and uniquely linguistic in light of recent suggestions by Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch that the only such aspect is syntactic recursion, the rest of language being either specific to humans but not to language (e.g. words and concepts) or not specific to humans (e.g. speech perception). We find the hypothesis problematic. It ignores the many aspects of grammar that are not recursive, such as phonology, morphology, case, agreement, and many properties of words. It is inconsistent with the anatomy and neural control of the human vocal tract. And it is weakened by experiments suggesting that speech perception cannot be reduced to primate audition, that word learning cannot be reduced to fact learning, and that at least one gene involved in speech and language was evolutionarily selected in the human lineage but is not specific to recursion. The recursion-only claim, we suggest, is motivated by Chomsky's recent approach to syntax, the Minimalist Program, which de-emphasizes the same aspects of language. The approach, however, is sufficiently problematic that it cannot be used to support claims about evolution. We contest related arguments that language is not an adaptation, namely that it is “perfect,” non-redundant, unusable in any partial form, and badly designed for communication. The hypothesis that language is a complex adaptation for communication which evolved piecemeal avoids all these problems. en
dc.description.sponsorship Psychology en
dc.language.iso en_US en
dc.publisher Elsevier en
dc.relation.isversionof http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2004.08.004 en
dc.relation.hasversion http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/articles/index.html en
dash.license META_ONLY
dc.subject minimalism en
dc.subject communication en
dc.subject phonology en
dc.subject evolution en
dc.subject language en
dc.subject syntax en
dc.title The Faculty of Language: What’s Special About It? en
dc.relation.journal Cognition en
dash.depositing.author Pinker, Steven
dash.embargo.until 10000-01-01

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  • FAS Scholarly Articles [7219]
    Peer reviewed scholarly articles from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences of Harvard University

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