+ Resolve Article
+ Follow Us
Follow on FacebookFollow on Facebook
Follow on TwitterFollow on Twitter

+ Translate
+ Subscribe to Site Feed
GeoScience Most Shared ContentMost Shared Content

Evolutionary Developmental Biology and Human Language Evolution: Constraints on Adaptation

, : Evolutionary Developmental Biology and Human Language Evolution: Constraints on Adaptation. Evolutionary Biology 39(4): 613-637

A tension has long existed between those biologists who emphasize the importance of adaptation by natural selection and those who highlight the role of phylogenetic and developmental constraints on organismal form and function. This contrast has been particularly noticeable in recent debates concerning the evolution of human language. Darwin himself acknowledged the existence and importance of both of these, and a long line of biologists have followed him in seeing, in the concept of "descent with modification", a framework naturally able to incorporate both adaptation and constraint. Today, the integrated perspective of modern evolutionary developmental biology ("evo-devo") allows a more subtle and pluralistic approach to these traditional questions, and has provided several examples where the traditional notion of "constraint" can be cashed out in specific, mechanistic terms. This integrated viewpoint is particularly relevant to the evolution of the multiple mechanisms underlying human language, because of the short time available for novel aspects of these mechanisms to evolve and be optimized. Comparative data indicate that many cognitive aspects of human language predate humans, suggesting that pre-adaptation and exaptation have played important roles in language evolution. Thus, substantial components of what many linguists call "Universal Grammar" predate language itself. However, at least some of these older mechanisms have been combined in ways that generate true novelty. I suggest that we can insightfully exploit major steps forward in our understanding of evolution and development, to gain a richer understanding of the principles that underlie human language evolution.


PMID: 23226905

DOI: 10.1007/s11692-012-9162-y

Other references

Herranz Amo, F.; Verdú Tartajo, F.; Díez Cordero, J.M.; Bueno Chomón, G.; Leal Hernández, F.; Bielsa Carrillo, A.; García Burgos, J., 1999: Non-specific granulomatous prostatitis diagnosed with ultrasonography-guided transrectal biopsy. To evaluate the incidence of non-specific granulomatous prostatitis (GP) in our series of prostate biopsies and to verify whether there were differences in the features of DRE, PSA and ultrasound findings in patients with GP and patients with pros...

Spraggins, Y.R.; Seidler, F.J.; Slotkin, T.A., 1993: Acute cocaine exposure sensitizes neonatal rat brain to hypoxia. FASEB Journal 7(3-4): A252

Banhegyi, G.; Mandl, J., 2001: The hepatic glycogenoreticular system. One of the major liver functions is the ability of hepatocytes to store glucose in the form of glycogen for various purposes. Beside glucose production and secretion, the synthesis of glucuronides and ascorbate has been reported to be dependent on...

Anonymous, 1982: Seismicity maps of the Kanto District, 1971-80. Jishin Yochi Renrakukai Kaiho = Report of the Coordinating Committee for Earthquake Prediction 27: 63-73

Rutland, M.D.; Lee, T.Y.; Nimmon, C.C.; Granowska, M.; Britton, K.E., 1980: Measurement of the effects of a single dose of prazosin on the cerebral blood flow in hypertensive patients. It was considered that the first dose reaction occurring with prazosin may have been due either to hypotension or to a specific reduction in cerebral blood flow. The development of a quantitative non-invasion nuclear medicine technique for cerebra...

Dowsett, M., 1998: Improved prognosis for biomarkers in breast cancer. Lancet 351(9118): 1753-1754

Lorich, D.G.; Brighton, C.T.; Gupta, R.; Corsetti, J.R.; Levine, S.E.; Gelb, I.D.; Seldes, R.; Pollack, S.R., 1998: Biochemical pathway mediating the response of bone cells to capacitive coupling. Rat calvarial bone cells or mouse MC3T3-E1 bone cells subjected to a capacitively coupled electric field of 20 mV/cm consistently showed significant increases in cellular proliferation as determined by deoxyribonucleic acid content. Verapamil, a m...

Longmuir, I.S.; Bourke, A., 1960: The measurement of the diffusion of oxygen through respiring tissue. The validity of Warburg's equation for diffusion of oxygen through tissue slices is discussed. A method of studying the respiration of tissue slices is described which can be used to measure both their QO2 and their critical or limiting O2 co...

Mesihović, R., 2004: Helicobacter pylori infection, history, diagnosis and therapy. Since 1874, possibility of gastric mucosa infection was discussed as a cause of ulcer forming. In 1893 spirochette in gastric mucosa of animals were described. In 1940 bacteria in gastric mucosa of patients with ulcers and cancers were found. In 1...

Wiklander, L.; Vahtras, K., 1957: The con. An apparatus for studying continuous ion exchange (S. & F. XVII) is described. Desorption by 0.002 n HC1 from Amberlite saturated with 5 % Li + 95 % K or 95% Li + 5% K showed that, compared with ordinary batch exchange, continuous ion exchange (CI...