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The Sudden Evolution of Language? -- Pillar #6. Brian MacWhinney Psychology Carnegie Mellon. The Seven Pillars of UG. Grammar Gene Speech is Special Language Organ and Modularity Critical Periods Poverty of the Stimulus Sudden Evolution of Language Recursion - LND. Data Sources.

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the sudden evolution of language pillar 6
The Sudden Evolution of Language? -- Pillar #6

Brian MacWhinney

Psychology

Carnegie Mellon

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

the seven pillars of ug
The Seven Pillars of UG
  • Grammar Gene
  • Speech is Special
  • Language Organ and Modularity
  • Critical Periods
  • Poverty of the Stimulus
  • Sudden Evolution of Language
  • Recursion - LND

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

data sources
Data Sources
  • Direct Evidence
    • Genetics
    • Fossils, reconstructions, comparative physiology
    • Settlement patterns, habitat range
    • Tools, artifacts, art
    • Climactic changes - glaciation, eruptions
  • Indirect Evidence
    • Human ontogeny, language acquisition
    • Neurology
    • Linguistics -- function, gesture, phonology, recursion
    • Evolutionary Psychology
    • All of the above across other primates and other species

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

core issues
Core Issues
  • Saltation vs. Coevolution
  • Developing an account that is consistent with the observed data
  • Recent focus by Hauser, Chomsky, Fitch on recursion as the core of language
  • Can we use this account to predict new findings and results in:
    • Comparative behavior
    • Comparative neurology
    • Fossils, tools, settlement, genetics
    • Evolutionary Neural Networks
    • Evolutionary Psychology

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

lessons from child language
Lessons from Child Language

Language learning involves linking a series of abilities

  • Audition
  • Segmentation
  • Imitation
  • Articulation, Timing
  • Attention
  • Lexicon
  • Combination
  • Recursion
  • ….

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

lessons from functional psycholinguistics
Lessons from Functional PsychoLinguistics
  • Language is grounded on cognition in
    • Direct perception
    • Space/Time/Aspect deixis
    • Causal Roles
    • Social Roles
  • Each level is organized by perspective
  • Incremental processing starts from embodied core -- McNeill
  • Compilation relies on item-based patterns and recursion

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

lessons from evolutionary theory
Lessons from Evolutionary Theory
  • Adaptations must lead to individual reproductive advantage
  • Group advantages are secondary
  • Advantages can be linked to disadvantages (sickle cell, autism)
  • Populations are dynamic
  • Changes are gradual and emergent - but this is still debated

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

skill network
Skill Network
  • Each attainment builds on previous ones.
  • Each relies on abilities that are found in a more limited form in our primate cousins.
  • Each ability can in turn be decomposed into subcomponents.
  • Given this, simple saltation is impossible.
  • However, some key changes could foster productive co-evolution of the network.
  • What forces could support continued progress?

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

continued support
Continued Support
  • The shift to bipedalism continued across three million years.
  • The role of the freed hands changed over time, but was a continuing drive.
  • Social forces exerted continual pressure.
  • Social forces combined with the role of the hands.

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

a grounded social climber
A Grounded Social Climber
  • As a bipedal, man is like the kangaroo.
  • Unlike the kangaroo, hominids were climbers who used their hands.
  • The hands were then used to control tools, but …
  • Forced into face to face contact, the hands could also contribute to social interaction.

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

proto mimesis
Proto-Mimesis
  • Bipedalism opens up face-to-face contact
  • The hands operate in the contact area
  • This produces proto-mimesis (Zlatev) with pointing and teaching
  • Vocalization locks in attention

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

partial differences
Partial Differences
  • Some ape lexical learning, but incomplete
  • Some ape planning abilities (Goodall straws), but incomplete
  • Some ape intersubjectivity, but incomplete
  • Some ape pointing, but incomplete

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

sharper changes
Sharper Changes
  • Cortical control of vocalization
  • Duality of patterning - Recursion?
  • Brain expansion
  • Physical changes
    • Articulation - teeth, mouth
    • Phonation - vocal cords, bent vocal tract
    • Thumb
    • Posture, parturition, neotony

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

problems with saltationism
Problems with Saltationism
  • Only deals with the last 100,000 years, not the last 6 million years
  • Ignores 300% increase in brain size
  • Ignores many morphological changes
  • Ignores homo erectus expansion.
  • Fails to deal with gesture
  • Fails to deal with skill network
  • Etc…

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

five periods
Five Periods
  • Bipedalism 7-4 MYA
  • Social Cohesion 4-2 MYA
  • Mimesis 2-.2 MYA
  • Phonology 300,000 - 50,000
  • Creativity 50,000 - now

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

cognitive attainments
Cognitive Attainments
  • Bipedalism
    • Basic imagery, tool use, spatial recursion
  • Social Cohesion
    • Cortical control of vocal-auditory channel
  • Mimesis
    • Gestural item-based pattern, prosody
  • Phonology
    • Phonemic system, phonological loop
  • Creativity
    • Item-based, perspective

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

1 bipedalism
1. Bipedalism
  • Coppens East Side Story 10-7 MYA
  • Jungle -> savannah (lakes?)
    • Handedness and affordances for arboreal
    • Deixis for terrestrial
  • Tool use and locomotion (primary)
  • Communication (secondary)
  • Groups needed for protection against predators

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

neuronal support
Neuronal Support
  • Parietal reorganization at 4MYA- Holloway
    • Body image projection
    • Navigation and deixis
    • Spatial images support recursion
    • Facial recognition (supramarginal)
  • Tools, navigation, social cohesion

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

2 social cohesion
2. Social Cohesion
  • Expansion at 4MYA, contraction at 3.5MYA
  • Habilis/ergaster vs. australopithecus
  • Competition was won by the most cohesive and planful groups
    • Good social partners
    • Sexual arms race
    • Dominance vs. external aggression
    • Role of dialect marking
    • Dunbar, Power, Worden social accounts

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

cortical control of vocalization
Cortical Control of Vocalization
  • Primate system links
    • Arousal (amygdala, brainstem)
    • Motivation (basal ganglion)
    • Memory (limbic, hippocampus)
  • The primate external striatum was absorbed by the neocortex, giving cortical control
  • Control is now from the supplementary motor and anterior cingulate

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

3 mimesis
3. Mimesis
  • Parallel evolution
    • The gestural channel contained the content
    • The vocal channel contained the social glue
  • Disorganized nature of mimetic processes
  • Inefficient gestalt encoding
  • Mechanisms:
    • Imitation
    • Pointing
    • Joint attention (Intersubjectivity)
    • Perspective-taking

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

monkey see monkey do
Monkey See, Monkey Do
  • Whiten 2003 Patteson 1978

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

early gestalts
Early Gestalts
  • Mimetic patterns do not separate verbs and nouns
  • Me-hand-grab-axe-up-swing-down-cut-chips-sound
  • This can be imitated as a Gestalt, but Gestalt storage is expensive
  • I chop wood.

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

satisfied preconditions
Satisfied Preconditions
  • Hands were free
  • Hands were controlled by complex plans
  • Spatial maps had evolved for self and group
  • The visual system could generate and store images
  • Visual images encoded hierarchically and open to recursion
  • Vocalization and eye-gaze controlled attention in face-to-face interaction

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

neuronal support25
Neuronal Support
  • Tripling in brain size (some allometric)
  • Earlier growth was in specific areas
    • Parietal
    • Cortical control of vocal channel
  • New pressures
    • Need for full simulation of the body for mimesis
    • Storage of mimetic sequences
    • Processing of mimetic operators
    • Teaching of mimetic sequences by mothers
    • Perspective-switching

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

how successful
How successful?
  • Expansion to all of Eurasia
  • At the expense of other hominids
  • Big, unorganized brain
  • No vocal systematization
  • Climate changes of the Pleistocene led to new pressures

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

4 phonology
4. Phonology
  • Phonological patterning
    • MacNeilage and vocal gesture
    • Gupta and MacWhinney and the phonological loop
  • Making efficient use of lexical storage
  • Capitalizes on evolution in TOM and perspective

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

vocal adaptations
Vocal Adaptations
  • Lower larynx and hence larger (and distinct) pharynx
  • Longer local cords (at least in adult males)
  • Aerodynamical streamlined conus elasticus (underside of vocal cords
  • Expanded neuronal control of intercostals at 300,000

These adaptations produce loud, efficient, and low-pitched vocalizations (but not necessarily speech itself).

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

facial musculature
Facial Musculature

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

ears teeth
Ears, Teeth

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

vocal cords
Vocal Cords

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

source filter theory
Source-Filter Theory

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

bent vocal tract
Bent Vocal Tract

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

possible vowels
Possible Vowels

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

neanderthal and cro magnon
Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

neuronal support36
Neuronal Support
  • Broca’s for lip-smacking becomes Broca’s for CV syllabic framework
  • Phonological loop involving superior temporal stores lexical items
  • Lexical items have access to all of the brain, but not dynamically

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

reuse of earlier mechanisms
Reuse of earlier mechanisms
  • Phonological store allows vocal rehearsal
  • Hippocampus stores the episodic basis of lexical meanings
  • DLPFC stores plans for tools use and mimesis
  • Integrated frontal function constructs group relations: kinship, reciprocals, hierarchy

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

5 phoenix
5. Phoenix
  • Narrowing of evolutionary window at 70,000
  • Computed through females, but males must be similar
  • Perhaps due to Toba Batak, perhaps to a pandemic
  • Survivors were an interesting subset of the earlier population
  • Phoenix from the Ashes

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

creativity explosion
Creativity Explosion
  • Artifacts at 50,000 - carved bone, amulets
  • Cave paintings at 30,000
  • Burial at 30,000
  • Opposition to Neanderthal
  • Mithen theory of demodularization

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

suspects
Suspects
  • Perspective
  • Recursion
  • Priesthood

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

perspective hypothesis
Perspective Hypothesis

unified embodied image

language as a functional neural circuit

perspective

perspective

perspective

perspective

direct

experience

space/time

deixis

plans

social

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

evolution and perspective
Evolution and Perspective
  • The five periods do not match the four cognitive levels
  • But each level was constructed as a part of this process
  • Each was progressively refined over time
  • The phonetic revolution underlies the grammar, but the grammar maps to cognition, not phonology

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

slide44
But…
  • TOM is developed in chimps
  • Perspective was important during mimesis
  • Imitation was present
  • Imagery was present
  • Mirror neurons are in monkeys

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

recursion
Recursion
  • Next talk: What Chomsky means by recursion reduces to item-based patterns
  • Item-based patterns require
    • Items
    • Slots
    • Features
    • Clustering

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

patterns from combinations
Patterns from Combinations
  • cookie =

“would you please open the cupboard door and bring me down a cookie”

  • want ##### cookie
  • want # cookie
  • want cookie
  • Nim Chimpsky, Washoe, Sara, Lana

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

item based patterns
Item-based Patterns
  • my + X
    • Position
    • Meaning relation
    • Possible fillers
    • My little dolly
  • Where + X
    • Where the wheel goes?
    • Where goes the wheel?

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

sockets are action based

--- breaks

__kick __

__ running

Throw__

__give__ __

Sockets are action-based

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

feature based patterns
Feature-based patterns
  • big + X, nice + X ….
  • Adj + X
  • Adj + N
  • But what about?
    • Actor + Action
    • Subject + Verb
    • Topic + Comment

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

patterns to creativity
Patterns to Creativity
  • Item-based patterns provided full recursion
  • Recursion linked dynamically to perspectival systems
  • Articulate language users became priests
  • Priests constructed the afterworld and myth

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

syntax and perspective
Syntax and Perspective
  • Tim saw the Grand Canyon flying to New York.
  • Jessie stole a picture of *her/herself.
  • Jessie stole me a picture of her/*herself.
  • The adults in the picture are facing away from us, with the children hidden behind them.
  • Did the bicyclist appear to fall?
  • Tim couldn’t find Mary’s beloved cat.

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

social perspectives
Social Perspectives

I claim that reason is a self-developing capacity. Kant disagrees with me on this point. He says it’s innate, but I answer that that’s begging the question, to which he counters, in Critique of Pure Reason, that only innate ideas have power. But I say to that, what about neuronal group selection? And he gives no answer.

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

conclusions
Conclusions
  • Language evolution was gradual, relying on coevolution of language, thought and gesture.
  • We can distinguish five major periods.
  • Recursion was important in recent changes, but relied on earlier spatial patterns
  • Most recent changes involves coordination of recursion and lexicon with perspective

Collaborative Commentary - MacWhinney

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