Cultural evolution: implications for understanding the human language faculty and its evolution

Smith, Kenny and Kirby, Simon (2008) Cultural evolution: implications for understanding the human language faculty and its evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363 (1509). pp. 3591-3603. ISSN 0962-8436

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2008.0145

Abstract

Human language is unique among the communication systems of the natural world: it is socially learned and, as a consequence of its recursively compositional structure, offers open-ended communicative potential. The structure of this communication system can be explained as a consequence of the evolution of the human biological capacity for language or the cultural evolution of language itself. We argue, supported by a formal model, that an explanatory account that involves some role for cultural evolution has profound implications for our understanding of the biological evolution of the language faculty: under a number of reasonable scenarios, cultural evolution can shield the language faculty from selection, such that strongly constraining language-specific learning biases are unlikely to evolve. We therefore argue that language is best seen as a consequence of cultural evolution in populations with a weak and/or domain-general language faculty.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Q100 Linguistics
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > School of Life Sciences > Psychology
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2010 13:25
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2015 11:45
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/239

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