Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, Lauren Collins never needed to speak a foreign language outside of high school Spanish classes. It wasn’t until she met her French-speaking husband and moved to Switzerland that she felt the need to become bilingual. She offers her humble opinion on the value of learning a new language.
It is a widely shared opinion among specialists that language is an evolutionary innovation, or that it contains some key evolutionary innovations. However, such claims are not based on a correspondingly consensual concept of ‘evolutionary innovation,’ but are rather expressed on atheoretical grounds. This fact has thus far acted as an obstacle for the collaborative effort upon which the task of disentangling the evolution of this human capacity should be built. In this paper, we suggest a formal approach to the issue, based on Günter Wagner’s recent theory of homologies and novelties. Within this new framework, we conclude that language is the human instantiation (thus an ‘homolog’) of a character widely represented in the nervous system of animals, which incorporates a number of interdependent innovative states that allows us conceptualizing it as a ‘variational modality’ of this ancient organ.
Chomsky’s ideas have profoundly affected linguistics and mind-science in general. Critics attacked his theories from the get-go and are still attacking, paradoxically demonstrating his enduring dominance. Some attacks are silly. For example, in his new book A Kingdom of Speech Tom Wolfe asserts that both Darwin and “Noam Charisma” were wrong.
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