Language architecture and its import for evolution

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HighlightsThe capacity for language emerged along with or not long after the appearance of Homo sapiens.The complexity/variety of languages derives from changes since the shared capacity evolved.The Basic Property provides the means to yield a digitally infinite array of hierarchically structured expressions with interpretations at thought and (usually) sound.By virtue of the Basic Property each I-language is a system of ‘audible signs for thought’.The rules of language are sensitive to structural properties but not linear order.Inquiry into the evolution of some biological system evidently can proceed only as far as its nature is understood. Lacking such understanding, its manifestations are likely to appear to be chaotic, highly variable, and lacking significant general properties; and, accordingly, study of its evolution cannot be seriously undertaken. These truisms hold of the study of the human faculty of language FL just as for other biological systems. As discussed below, FL appears to be a shared human capacity in essentials, with options of variation of a kind to which we return.After a long lapse, the problem of evolution of language arose in mid-twentieth century when the first efforts were made to construct accounts of FL as a biological object, internal to an individual, with particular internal languages – I-languages in current terminology – as manifestations of FL.

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