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::: center home >> events >> lunchtime >> 2006-07 >> abstracts

Tuesday, 31 October 2006
Why we talk - Human Language in the Light of Evolution
Jean-Louis Dessalles
ParisTech - École Nationale Supérieure des Télécommunications Paris
12:05 pm, 817R Cathedral of Learning

Abstract: For a long time, language structure has been studied in the complete ignorance of the way it was formed. Human language results from a biological evolution, and this fact imposes strong constraints on what the architecture of language can be. Language modules (digital phonology, morphology, phrase structure, etc.) cannot have appeared simultaneously. Each step had to be a functional stage. If so, what is the biological function of each module? Why huge lexicons? Why two partially redundant syntactic systems? Why did speech organs significantly evolve on the speaker’s side (pharynx) and not on the hearer side, if the latter is the one who is supposed to benefit from communicating? Recent advances in dealing with these issues offer new original answers. They suggest that language did not emerge for utilitarian purposes, but as a means to display definite qualities in the biologically “political” context of our species.

Revised 3/6/08 - Copyright 2006