chapter  2
38 Pages

Symbols and Syntax: A Darwinian Approach to Language Development

ByElizabeth Bates, Donna Thai, Virginia Marchman

The species on this planet have had millions of years to develop mechanisms for coping with light, heat, gravity, space, time, cause and effect, and the boundaries of common objects and events. By contrast, human language is a relative newcomer, a coping mechanism that has been around for a mere 300,000 years or less (Harnad, Steklis, & Lancaster, 1976; Lieberman, 1982). How did such a complex and exquisite system evolve in such a short time? In this chapter, we sketch out a neo-Darwinian approach to the development of symbols and syntax, an approach that may help to resolve this evolutionary dilemma.