The origin of language as a product of the evolution of modern cognition
University of California San Diego
Joan Turner [+]
To ask where language comes from is to raise the question of the origin of the cognitively modern human mind. Recent work in conceptual integration theory (CIT) shows that cognitively modern human beings are equipped with an advanced form of a basic mental operation that makes it possible for them to develop a number of human singularities: art, music, science, fashions of dress, dance, mathematics. This basic mental operation is conceptual integration, and the advanced form is Double-Scope integration. Human singularities are not independent. They precipitate as products of Double-Scope conceptual integration. Here, we will explore the implications of these findings for the origin of language. There are many problems besetting theories of the origin of language. These problems include the absence of intermediate stages in the appearance of language, the absence of existing languages more rudimentary than others, the appeal to some extraordinary genetic event unlike any other we know of, and the difficulty of finding a defensible story of adaptation. CIT opens up a different way of looking at the origin of language that is free of such problems.