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The Evolution of the Language Faculty

Dr. Marc Hauser

Tuesday, September 27, 2005, 01:00pm - 02:00pm

Harvard University Dept. of Psychology

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Chomsky�s view of the faculty of language is that it consists of three core components and their interfaces: phonological, semantic and syntactic. An important goal for those with an evolutionary bent is to determine whether these components evolved for language or for some other domain of knowledge. One approach to addressing this problem is to look at nonhuman animals, looking not only at whether they deploy these processes in the service of communication, but in other functional problems as well. In this talk, I focus on the computational resources that might underlie narrow syntax, presenting data from laboratory experiments on nonhuman primates that mirror those carried out with human infants.  I conclude with the claim that most, if not all, of the phonological and semantic processes are shared with other animals, whereas some of the key computational resources are not. This leaves open the question of whether these computational resources are unique to language as opposed to share with other domains of knowledge.

Dr. Marc Hauser