Some Problems for Biolinguistics
Keywords:biolinguistics, covert movement, evolution, internalism, Minimalist Program
AbstractBiolinguistics will have to face and resolve several problems before it can achieve a pivotal position in the human sciences. Its relationship to the Minimalist Program is ambiguous, creating doubts as to whether it is a genuine subdiscipline or merely another name for a particular linguistic theory. Equally ambiguous is the relationship it assumes between ‘knowledge of language’ and the neural mechanisms that actually construct sentences. The latter issue raises serious questions about the validity of covert syntactic operations. Further problems arise from the attitudes of many biolinguists towards natural selection and evo-devo: The first they misunderstand, the second they both misunderstand and overestimate. One consequence is a one-sided approach to language evolution crucially involving linguistic ‘precursors’ and the protolanguage hypothesis. Most of these problems arise through the identification of biolinguistics with internalist and essentialist approaches to language, thereby simultaneously narrowing its scope and hindering its acceptance by biologists.
LicenseAuthors who submit to and publish with BIOLINGUISTICS agree to the following terms:
- The author(s) retain(s) copyright and grant(s) the journal the right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons CC-BY License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in BIOLINGUISTICS.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., archiving a format-free manuscript in institutional repositories, on their personal website, or a preprint server such as LingBuzz, PsyArXiv, or similar) prior to and during the submission process, because we believe that this behaviour can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (see The Effect of Open Access).