The Evolution of Morphology

Paperback | February 15, 2010

byAndrew Carstairs-mccarthy

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This book considers the evolution of the grammatical structure of words in the more general contexts of human evolution and the origins of language. The consensus in many fields is that language is well designed for its purpose, and became so either through natural selection or by virtue ofnon-biological constraints on how language must be structured. Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy argues that in certain crucial respects language is not optimally designed. This can be seen, he suggests, in the existence of not one but two kinds of grammatical organization - syntax and morphology - and inthe morphological and morpho-phonological complexity which leads to numerous departures from the one-form-one-meaning principle. Having discussed the issue of good and bad design in a wider biological context, the author shows that conventional explanations for the nature of morphology do not work. Its poor design features arose, he argues, from two characteristics present when the ancestors of modern humans had a vocabularybut no grammar. One of these was a synonymy-avoidance expectation, while the other was an articulatory and phonological apparatus that encouraged the development of new synonyms. Morphology developed in response to these conflicting pressures. In this stimulating and carefully argued account Professor McCarthy offers a powerful challenge to conventional views of the relationship between syntax and morphology, to the adaptationist view of language evolution, and to the notion that language in some way reflects 'laws of form'. Thisfundamental contribution to understanding the nature and evolution of language will be of wide interest to linguists of all theoretical persuasions as well as to scholars in cognitive science and anthropology.

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This book considers the evolution of the grammatical structure of words in the more general contexts of human evolution and the origins of language. The consensus in many fields is that language is well designed for its purpose, and became so either through natural selection or by virtue ofnon-biological constraints on how language mus...

Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy is Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. He has a BA (Hons) in Literae Humaniores from Oxford and a PhD on inflectional morphology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. In 1969 he was awarded a Harkness Fellowship and from 1969 to 1972...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 9.21 × 6.14 × 0.03 inPublished:February 15, 2010Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199202680

ISBN - 13:9780199202683

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Table of Contents

1. Design in Language and Design in Biology2. Why There is Morphology: Traditional Accounts3. A Cognitive-Articulatory Dilemma4. Modes of Synonymy Avoidance5. The Ancestors of Affixes6. The Ancestors of Stem Alternants7. Derivation, Compounding, and Lexical Storage8. Morphological homonymy and Morphological Meanings9. Conclusions

Editorial Reviews

"I was dazzled by the level of erudition manifested by OCL and its uncanny ability to marshal an astonishingly diverse and seemingly unrelated set of facts in support of its controversial hypothesis. Whatever its flaws, there is nothing like it in the language evolution literature. This book,I predict, will take over from Bickerton's 'Language and Species' the status of point of departure for all linguistically informed studies of biological evolution of grammer" --F Newmeyer, Journal of Linguistics