Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Wednesday Science Limerick - The Language Enigma

The Tower of Babel
We use our intelligent brain
To speak phrases – both bright and mundane
Are we really so clever
That despite all endeavour
Its real workings we’ll never explain.

When I started this blog I drew attention to the black hole in brain research and have referred to the subject on various occasions since. Now a paper How Could Language Have Evolved published at the end of August by Johan J. Bolhuis, Ian Tattersall, Noam Chomsky and Robert C. Berwick which demonstrates that, at least as far as the origins of language are concerned, they agree that there is a significant problem. Their abstract begins:

The evolution of the faculty of language largely remains an enigma. In this essay, we ask why. Language's evolutionary analysis is complicated because it has no equivalent in any nonhuman species. There is also no consensus regarding the essential nature of the language “phenotype.” 

My views on the subject suggest that they have been busy digging a very deep hole in the wrong place.  I am just getting things back together after a month's holiday entertaining a visitor from Australia but hope to have a post describing where they should have been digging by the end of the week.

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