Function, Selection, and Innateness: The Emergence of Language Universals

Paperback | March 1, 1999

bySimon Kirby

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This book explores issues at the core of modern linguistics and cognitive science. Why are all languages similar in some ways and in others utterly different? Why do languages change and change variably? How did the human capacity for language evolve, and how far did it do so as an innateability? Simon Kirby looks at these questions from a broad perspective, arguing that they can (indeed must) be studied together. The author begins by examining how far the universal properties of language may be explained by examining the way it is used, and how far by the way it is structured. He then considers what insights may be gained by combining functional and formal approaches. In doing so he develops a way oftreating language as an adaptive system, in which its communicative and formal roles are both crucial and complementary. In order to test the effectiveness of competing theories and explanations, Simon Kirby develops computational models to show what universals emerge given a particular theory of language use or acquisition. He presents here both the methodology and the results. Function, Selection, and Innateness is important for its argument, its methodology, and its conclusions. It is a powerful demonstration of the value of looking at language as an adaptive system and goes to the heart of current debates on the evolution and nature of language.

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From the Publisher

This book explores issues at the core of modern linguistics and cognitive science. Why are all languages similar in some ways and in others utterly different? Why do languages change and change variably? How did the human capacity for language evolve, and how far did it do so as an innateability? Simon Kirby looks at these questions f...

Simon Kirby is at University of Edinburgh.
Format:PaperbackPublished:March 1, 1999Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198238126

ISBN - 13:9780198238126

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Table of Contents

1. A Puzzle of Fit2. The Impact of Processing on Word Order3. Hierarchies and Competing Motivations4. The Limits of Functional Adaptation5. Innateness and Function in Linguistics6. Conclusion

Editorial Reviews

`A brilliant, innovative computer-simulated exploration into the problem of linkage - a missing link in the current functional attempts at explaining language universals: how functional pressures grammaticalise and become innate properties governing human language and its acquisition. Inthese short, but richly-illustrated, pages Simon Kirby succeeds admirably in integrating usage-based functional approaches and formal, innatist theories. This intelligent, thought-provoking book is an essential reading for all those concerned with grammatical theory - functional or formal, languageuniversals, linguistic typology and historical change.'Professor Masayoshi Shibatani, Kobe University