I was traveling last week and have not been focusing on my blog, but I do want to draw everyone’s attention to a paper published in the current Biolinguistics online journal. Titled, “The Biological Nature of Human Language,” it is signed by 14 authors, many of the distinguished linguists, and begins with an acknowledgment of the contribution of three others. So I suppose this is as close as we are going to get to a consensus from generative grammarians as to where they stand today in thinking about the nature of language. The big news seems to be the shift in emphasis from speech as a symbol processing operation to a biological process.
Remember it is a shift of emphasis, not of definition. Interest in the biological side of language traces to at least 1967 when Eric Lenneberg published his classic The Biolgical Foundations of Language, but the emphasis remained on the mechanical manipulation of symbols. Now the emphasis has shifted, but symbol processing is not forgotten.
Indeed the paper’s first section after the introduction seeks to find the balance between biology’s sensory-motor system that perceives and produces language and the conceptual-intentional system that manipulates symbols. Both systems are discussed in terms of biology, but I cannot help noticing that it is very easy to get a computer to perform the tasks of the conceptual-intentional system and very hard to get one to perceive and act in accordance with its perceptions. Meanwhile, the biological world is full of perceiving actors although logical, symbol processors are rare. In this paper, both systems are subordinated to “narrow syntax,” which is the minimum that must be specified by “the human genome … as the unique core of universal grammar” [p. 8]. Without that minimum, the authors claim, it would be impossible for a biological machine with finite computational power to “produce an infinity of sound-meaning pairs.”
The contrary position is that any universal grammar reflects the workings of the sensory-motor system and any conceptual-intentional system, and that the infinity of sound-meaning pairs comes from the boundless number of possible interactions with the environment. The paper, however, does not acknowledge such a school.
I got a chuckle a few pages later when the paper went on to note “the novel possibility”  that much of both human and animal thought rests on shared intellectual and perceptual powers. Turning to the bibliography I noticed the absence of Christine Kenneally’s book, The First Word, from a few years back in which that novel possibility was the book’s main thesis. In that case, the authors say, humanity’s linguistic competence would rest on a “unique capacity to interface syntactic structures with semantic and phonological representations” . Although I instinctively recoil from this jargon, I don’t really disagree with the proposition, at least at the level of beginning speech. I would love to see these authors start thinking about language origins and development as a dynamic process.
So I was quite pleased when I got to the part in the paper where the authors reject the “traditional… false-to-fact idealization about instantaneous development as if information [about language] was available to the child at a single point in time” . This refers to the long-standing linguistic argument that the development of language is irrelevant to the nature of language because, once you get to full language it does not matter how you got there. It was the intellectual teammate of the idea that language evolved in a single big-bang or great-leap-forward, and it guaranteed that the generative school would have little to contribute to this blog. However, the paper reports that:
Current practice and results turn this original notion on its head, rendering the concept of child’s biological development central rather than peripheral. 
As an example of why development matters, the authors refer to the observation that children in early speech often use verbs without tense markers, and they do so in a consistent way. For example, they will say ‘him go’ in which they use the pronoun’s accusative case and the verb’s infinitive form. This pattern of case agreement + tenseless verb might be explained by saying that producing both agreement and tense as the same time is too much for the young brain. Typically, as the brain matures the ability to use tense and case together appears. However, some people with Specific Language Impairment continue to speak without using tenses even though their general cognitive abilities appear to be normal. This finding suggests that there is a developmental problem specifically affecting language.
Now here we have evidence of some kind of change in linguistic competence, quite possibly with a genetic component, that appears between the onset of speech and its full form. That’s exactly the kind of thing a dynamic, evolutionary view of language origins expects and I’m glad to hope that in the future more such useful work will be coming from the linguists themselves.