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Michael Denton on the uniqueness of human language

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From Evolution News & Views:

There is considerable controversy over what structures in the brain restrict all human languages to the same deep structure. Some linguists reject an innate neurological organ devoted specifically to language. Conceiving that it is only the brain’s general abilities that are “pre-organized,” they envisage language as a learned skill based on a “functional language system” and design constraints, distributed across numerous cortical and subcortical structures.

Yet however it is derived during development, there is no doubt that a unique deep structure underlies the languages of all members of our species. It is because of the same underlying deep structure that we can speak the language of the San Bushman or an Australian aborigine, and they in turn can speak English. The fact that all modern humans, despite their long “evolutionary separation” — some modern races such as the San of the Kalahari and the Australian aborigines have been separated by perhaps 400,000 years of independent evolution — can learn each other’s languages implies that this deep grammar must have remained unchanged since all modern humans (African and non-African) diverged from their last common African ancestor, at least 200,000 years ago. As Chomsky puts it: … More.

Denton is the author of Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (2016)

See also: Can we talk? Language as the business end of consciousness

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2 Replies to “Michael Denton on the uniqueness of human language

  1. 1
    mike1962 says:

    “A semantic language with simple mapping rules, of a kind one might suppose that the chimpanzee would have, appears to confer all the advantages one normally associates with discussions of mastodon hunting or the like. For discussions of that kind, syntactical classes, structure-dependent rules, recursion and the rest, are overly powerful devices, absurdly so.” –David Premack

    Indeed. Human language is designed to handle philosophy, science, mathematics, music, and all sorts of wonderful things. An embarrassment of riches.

  2. 2
    Robert Byers says:

    Chomsky is wrong about innate language ability.
    Its just they can’t figure out how language can happen in dumb kids.
    Yet its clearly a function of memory.
    All one needs is a great memory machine. Does a computer have a innate language ability? No! Yet it can translate/print in every language.
    Its just in the memory.
    NEVER do kids speak in language but they first had the thoughts of what to speak./
    The thinking is the clue. Kids/people have innate intelligence!!
    The language, all from memory remember, just expresses the thoughts.
    there is no reason to invent brain goo to organize language.
    The organization comes from thought organization.
    No big deal.
    Otherwise one would have to say innate language organization is influencing thought organization.
    Very unlikely and not needed.
    Adam spoke right away. He could think and quickly instantly organize sounds for his thoughts. the organization of the thoughts is what organized the sounds/language.

    these evos are tripped up . Language is one case you can’t see evolution going on. YUP SO ITS INNATE.
    Give it up already!!

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