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Theoria. Revista de Teoría, Historia y Fundamentos de la Ciencia

Volume 20, Issue 3, Septiembre 2005

Terrence W. Deacon
Pages 269-286

Language as an Emergent Function
Some Radical Neurological and Evolutionary Implications

Language is a spontaneously evolved emergent adaptation, not a formal computational system. Its structure does not derive from either innate or social instruction but rather self-organization and selection. Its quasi-universal features emerge from the interactions among semiotic constraints, neural processing limitations, and social transmission dynamics. The neurological processing of sentence structure is more analogous to embryonic differentiation than to algorithmic computation. The biological basis of this unprecedented adaptation is not located in some unique neurologieal structure nor the result of any single mutation, but is vested in the synergistic interaction of numerous coevolved neurological biases and social dynamics.

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