From Spatial Cognition to Language
Keywords:Evolution of language, Hippocampus, Language faculty, Spatial cognition
AbstractThe evolution of language has been linked in the recent research to the evolution of a number of different capacities, from the theory of mind to the type-recursive computation. In this paper, I examine the possibility that language has evolved from the capacity of spatial computation. Similarities, but also certain differences, between the two capacities are outlined and discussed, including the following. From the aspect of neuro-cognitive science, it cannot stay unnoticed that some of the central computations both in the language faculty and in the spatial cognition are located in the same brain area - the hippocampus. On the cognitive side, direct counterparts of the central components of the language faculty can be identified within the domain of spatial cognition. In particular, this is argued for the recursive computation and its categorial base, for the use of two types of information, the descriptive and the geometric, in establishing reference, for the process of update of a mental representation of the relevant context based on the sensory input, and for several other aspects. Since humans and other vertebrates have spatial cognitive capacities of approximately the same nature and complexity, this narrows down the set of possible answers to the question what distinguishes humans and their language faculty from the cognitive capacities present in other species. The hypothesis proposed is that this difference is three-fold, and involves: 1) the domain-general use of the otherwise similar computational capacities as opposed to the use in animals which is bound to the spatial domain, and perhaps one or two others; 2) the serialization of the computations of the descriptive and the geometric means of reference in humans, resulting in a combined aggregate information, as opposed to a strict separation in other animals and 3) the increased use and importance of the update of the relevant mental representation of the context by a group of humans rather than just an individual.
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).