Blog Rating

Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

« Babel's Dawn: The Book | Main | Genes and Language »


Giorgio Marchetti

Hi Edmund just an observation from my side concerning your hypotheses (if I understand them well) that words such as “comprehend”:

(1) began as metaphors that are no longer intelligible
(2) are meaningless because they do not point attention anywhere

I too agree with (1). I do not agree so much with (2), in the sense that I too believe that they do not point attention anywhere, but I hold that they make you anyhow attentional work in certain ways. If you consider what cognitive psychology findings (but also introspection : see William James) taught us, you see that attention not only is used to point, but also to select, sustain, zoom, compare, etc. I believe (but some other authors as well) that words make you perform various attentional operations (not just pointing, which seems the most obvious).

Just let me publicize the work of my colleague Giulio Benedetti, just published on “Advanced studies in Biology”, who is extensively analyzing grammatical words in mental operations (among which attention is the most important, albeit not the only ones). Obviously we need empirical evidence to confirm all this: but here we enter the problem of funds, which are not at easy to find (for us at least). Any how we are trying to devise very simple experiments costing nothing, but this will take some time




the things that I have to learn from this beautiful blog is decreasing as the blogger chooses to take a more radical position against some theories of language evolution (especially against those accounts given by linguistic theory).

J. Goard

With all due respect to Tom, I want to register my disagreement. As far as descriptive linguistics goes, contemporary generative grammar is not the only game in town. The major alternative paradigm, usage-based construction grammar, does not strike me as having any compatibility issues with the evolutionary position that the blogger sketches. Indeed, such compatibility is prominent among my many reasons for accepting the usage-based position over the generativist, innatist one.

To the blogger's list, I would only add that it is overwhelmingly probable that protolanguage was gestural, and that a complex iconic/symbolic sign language preceded significant spoken language by a long time. I base this upon the much greater power in the visual channel for scaffolding early arbitrary signs (symbols) with iconic depictions, which (in line with Deacon) would seem necessary to get language off the ground. Tomasello accepts this view too, largely on the basis of the far greater manual/visual (versus vocal/auditory) communicative capacities observed in other great apes. What's more, a subsequent shift from sign to speech makes perfect evolutionary sense, given the immediate and substantial survival value of communicating while using your hands, at night, through objects, etc.


by the way I am not the Tom that usually writes. I am someone else. Let me avoid any misunderstading! :)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Bookmark and Share

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz

Visitor Data

Blog powered by Typepad