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This too represents a paradigm shift of sorts in linguistic theory.

The kinds of operations proposed in minimalist accounts of language lend themselves more easily to explorations of brain implementation, in that they are computationally more plausible as far as the brain is concerned, and can thus be investigated biologically. Another important aspect of minimalism is the recognition that what were once taboos in generativism, namely social transmission, cultural evolution, or more generally the environment, are important factors in the emergence of grammatical properties.

Ignoring these factors was perhaps important conceptually, as a way of emphasizing the biological character of language, but now we are at the point when we know that biology is more than a genetic blueprint. This makes possible the rapprochement of ideas traditionally shunned by the generativist community for historical reasons. Biolinguistics is better characterized as an approach, rather than a field.

This is because one of the goals of biolinguistics is very much a methodological one: to bring together insights and discoveries from various fields productively. To achieve this, more than vague acquaintance with the fields mentioned thus far is necessary. A biolinguist must be well-versed in the biological literature, and must seek collaboration with other researchers who are experts on biological sub-fields. It is important to resist vague mentions of other fields without really exploring the issues they are concerned with; the latter is more likely to alienate those fields, as is so often the case.

This endeavor must also rely on encouragement and resources made available to young researchers who are interested in the biology of language, from exposure to different perspectives to the culture of the fields in the life sciences that offer them, which function very differently from linguistics e. If research takes the biolinguist there, the biolinguist should not be surprised to study something that apparently has little to do with language as traditionally conceived, and should welcome the study of other domains and other species entirely e.

This does not mean coming up with analogies of what those species are doing and language as is common in media reports, but also in the technical literature. Instead, it means decomposing and making sense of language in an evolutionary context. Doing so will reinvigorate the work of a researcher of language: it opens up immense possibilities of what can be studied, where one can go to study it, and where it can be shared with the scientific community. A readily available avenue for research lies in the bottom-up approach, which brings together modern comparative cognition and minimalism.

Going this route requires stretching theories of computation to the point where they can make sense in neurological and genetic terms, and not merely serving as formal accounts of what could be happening in a computer if the mind worked exactly like one. To get to the point where this can be achieved, the role of other factors in the shaping of the language faculty and linguistic structure must be taken into account, and the still evolving evolutionary biology provides a good basis for that exploration, and brings the study of language within the fold of an Extended Synthesis.

The key is bringing knowledge together through linking hypothesis, and for the hypothesis to link, the different elements must have things in common. There are two ways of looking at this challenge. The first is the point of view of the non-linguists, who refer to language and use language in their work without necessarily knowing what language is, and different working definitions abound in the literature. This is not to say that all linguists are clear on what language is—they are not—but others tend to look at it simplistically without ever having studied it.

The other way of looking at this challenge is the way in which linguists have made their results available which might have a strong influence on the previous one. Psychologists, neuroscientists, and geneticists are used to understanding what their colleagues mean, even if it takes some familiarization, but when they look into linguistics they are likely to find what seems to be cryptic and circumscribed terminology and ideas that they can simply not exploit.

The result is often either ignoring the work of linguists or misinterpreting it. Some linguists who are keen on the biological nature of language have tried to re formulate their insights in such a way that cross-discipline discussion is possible, but this is very much an ongoing and embryonic task. There is a need to take linguistic theory and filter out computational primitives not in service of the theory itself, but instead in service of what they are supposed to account for, namely neuronal computation.

For a linguistic model to be tackled beyond linguistics, it must offer a set of essential primitives that abide by principles of computation at a fine enough grain, that is, whose brain implementation can be fathomed and not just assumed. Doing so will provide the pieces that make it possible to explore the evolution and nature of language in the big picture: its potentially distant origins, how they got together, and how they are implemented neuronally.

This would be a step toward solving the aforementioned Granularity Mismatch Problem that Poeppel and Embick bring to attention.

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The other problem they highlight, the Ontological Incommensurability Problem, is a more serious one, which could be true in principle. But it should not be taken as an irreversible fact. Instead, it should be taken as something that can be remedied if different scientists go the extra mile and adopt a vertical, multilevel approach, not unlike what Marr proposed for vision linking the computational, algorithmic, and implementational levels of analysis.

The stale character of ontological incommensurable units can be replaced if they are decomposed and their relations explored. Linking specific brain areas to language or specific linguistic operations only contributes to their imperviousness to investigation, and it will be more fruitful to look for basic computation that is recruited for higher-level cognitive functions than what we call language is a manifestation of. Mapping specific functions to specific brain areas—methodological assumptions aside—will give us information about only where in the brain something is happening, and not what that is or how it is accomplished.

This is an assumption that not only linguists but also brain researchers are still working on surpassing see Poeppel, An old idea that still plagues biological inquiry but that must be abandoned is that the faculty of language is uniform across individuals. Again, while this is important when delineating the object of study, the point has come where evidence to the contrary is available.

The fact that different modalities coexist, for example, is good evidence. The study of linguistic disorders also allows us look at them as breakdowns of the language faculty, and these are widely varied. Also, when taking the neurological level into account, language acquisition is not as straightforwardly universal as once thought. Similar milestones are still cleared across individuals, but they also vary. The same way that different phenotypes can result from the genotypes, similar cognitive profiles can also rely on different brain architectures.

The dynamic interaction of all the different factors that make up biological structures and behavior—encompassed by evolution, development, and the environment—result in different ways of implementing a functional faculty such as language.


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After five decades of biolinguistics, a point has been reached where testable hypotheses about the nature and evolution of language can be formulated. Language has become a subject not only of linguistics, but crucially of a number of different disciplines as well, working in tandem. Much work needs to be done, and methodological barriers pose serious challenges, but as researchers progressively learn to bring these disciplines together, the study of language becomes a much larger enterprise, and new avenues of research open up. At the same time, uncovering the roles of hitherto-ignored factors in the shaping of the language faculty results in the reduction of what is to be explained, bringing us closer to the goal of discovering what is unique about our species.

Amundson, R. The changing role of the embryo in evolutionary thought: Roots of evo-devo. Cambridge, U. Find this resource:. Boeckx, C. Language in cognition: Uncovering mental structures and the rules behind them. Malden, Mass. The Cambridge handbook of biolinguistics. Rhythms of the brain. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Chomsky, N. Rules and representations.

New York: Columbia University Press. Dediu, D. An Introduction to genetics for language scientists.

Cedric Boeckx and Pedro Tiago Martins

Di Sciullo, A. The biolinguistic enterprise: New perspectives on the evolution and nature of the human language faculty. Jenkins, L. Lenneberg, E. Biological foundations of language. New York: Wiley. Marcus, G. The birth of the mind. New York: Basic Books. Pigliucci, M. Evolution: The extended synthesis. Cambridge, Mass.

On the primitive operations of syntax

Benitez-Burraco, A. Corbett Eds. Elementary syntactic structures. The Biolinguistics manifesto. Biolinguistics , 1 1 , 1—8. Biolinguistics , 5 3 , — Box, J. Fisher: The life of a scientist. A review of B.

ARTICULOS DESTACADOS

Language , 35 1 , 26— Aspects of the theory of syntax. Cinque, G. The cartography of syntactic structures. Moscati Ed. Fisher, R. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Larson, Richard et al The Evolution of Human Language. Biolinguistic Perspectives.

Books & Monographs

Cambridge University Press. Indexicals in Free Indirect Discourse Innovations in the study of language acquisition and language impairment Language Policy for Indigenous, Immigrant, and Ethnic Minority Languages Linguistic theory and its applications: Comparative applied studies Register variation and syntactic theory Rethinking Creole Morphology Socio-cognitive aspects of language attitude variation The relationship between perception and production in L2 phonological acquisition The Semantics of compounding Donateurs Liens.

References Chomsky, Noam.


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  5. Three factors in language design. Linguistic Inquiry 36, 1— The poverty of the stimulus. Unfinished business. Relying on their expression in the central nervous system and phenotypes associated with mutations in these genes, we claim that regulatory changes in kainate and metabotropic receptor genes have led to alterations in limbic function and Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis regulation, with potential implications for the emergence of unique social behaviors and communicative abilities in self- domesticated species. Symmetrical 7q We undertook a functional dissection of chromatin remodeler BAZ1B in neural crest stem cells NCSCs from a uniquely informative cohort of typical and atypical patients harboring 7q Our results reveal a key contribution of BAZ1B to NCSC in vitro induction and migration, coupled with a crucial involvement in neural crest NC -specific transcriptional circuits and distal regulation.