Whale anatomy shows flippers evolved from hands. Likewise modern abstract sentences have the anatomy of perceptual statements.
My last post discussed the main thesis of my paper, “The Evolution of a Hierarchy of Attention,” included in the book Attention and Meaning. A secondary theme in the paper concerns the problem of whether language was based originally on perception or mentalese, Steven Pinker’s term for innate concepts built into the brain. Presumably, these concepts take the form of brain circuits. Defenders of the mentalese-origin like to point out that we can speak in purely non-perceptual terms, e.g., “Justice is justice only when it is merciful.” There are no concrete nouns in that sentence and no metaphorical verbs or prepositions, yet it seems perfectly intelligible. I can imagine a teacher throwing that sentence out to a class to discuss in an essay. So it appears undeniable that modern language does not have to say things that are visualizable or expressible by the evocation of any of the other senses. Some smart people insist that since we do not need to speak in perceptible terms, language cannot be based on paying attention to perceptible things. Indeed, that attitude dominates linguistics and cognitive psychology in general (with some important exceptions).