The Evolution of I-Language: Lexicalization as the Key Evolutionary Novelty

  • Dennis Ott Harvard University
Keywords: comparative psychology, evolution, I-language, lexicalization

Abstract

Comparative psychological research suggests that human and non-human minds comprise an array of encapsulated cognitive systems (‘core knowledge systems’). While most of these cognitive building blocks appear to be shared across species, the cognitive gap between human and non-human minds is nevertheless quite stunning (Hauser’s Paradox). Following recent ideas concerning the crucial role of human word learning in cognitive development, it is here suggested that lexicalization — the association of concepts with words — is the key evolutionary novelty that allows linguistic minds to integrate the various encapsulated conceptual resources into a common mental language.