du.sePublications
Change search
Link to record
Permanent link

Direct link
BETA
Johansson, Sverker
Publications (10 of 14) Show all publications
Johansson, S. (2017). All you need is love... or what?. In: : . Paper presented at Ways to Protolanguage 5, Barcelona, Spain, 26 - 28 September 2017.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>All you need is love... or what?
2017 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

All you need is love… or what?

Language is essentially always present in groups of modern humans. Even in the exceptional groups that for some reason are formed without language, language will invariably emerge in short order. Examples of language emergence in recent times include deaf communities in e.g. Nicaragua and Israel. Such newly-formed languages converge within a few generations towards the same general form and features as mainstream human languages.

Language is essentially never present in groups of non-human primates. Even in the exceptional groups that are heavily exposed to language and explicitly trained in language use, progress in language acquisition is invariably modest at best. Language never emerges spontaneously in non-human groups.

What’s special with humans? It is sometimes argued that “all you need is merge” (e.g. Berwick 2007), that a small genetic change provided a language-ready brain and the rest is history. This saltational view of language evolution is wrong for many reasons (e.g. Tallerman 2014), but I would add here another one.

A language-ready brain is not an all-or-nothing affair, nor is it sufficient for language emergence. The results of language training in apes are modest, but not nil. Apes do learn to connect symbols with referents and use them communicatively. One may quibble about whether to call this “language”, and it is far from full human language, notably lacking in syntax. But it does show the presence of some language-relevant abilities in apes, and it is a functional communication tool at some protolinguistic level.

But if ape brains are protolanguage-ready, why doesn’t protolanguage emerge in the wild among apes, as it does among humans? Clearly, some extra-linguistic key factor is lacking. A language-ready brain is not all you need for language emergence. In a group of hypothetical creatures with a human language faculty (narrow sense) but otherwise ape-like in psychology and behavior, language would not emerge.

Human prosociality and shared intentionality are likely key ingredients in language emergence (e.g. Tomasello 2010), but are not the whole story. In this talk, I will explore the minimal extra-linguistic requirements for protolanguage emergence to get off the ground in protohumans.

 

References:

Berwick, R C (2011) All you Need is Merge: Biology, Computation, and Language from the Bottom-up.  In di Sciullo & Boeckx The Biolinguistic Enterprise OUP.

Tallerman M. (2014) No syntax saltation in language evolution. Language Sciences 46, 207-219.

Tomasello, M (2010) Origins of human communication. MIT Press.

National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
No research profile
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:du-26394 (URN)
Conference
Ways to Protolanguage 5, Barcelona, Spain, 26 - 28 September 2017
Available from: 2017-10-11 Created: 2017-10-11 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved
Johansson, S. (2016). Evolution of Language. Oxford Bibliographies: Evolutionary Biology
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Evolution of Language
2016 (English)In: Oxford Bibliographies: Evolutionary BiologyArticle, review/survey (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Why do humans have language at all and how did we become language users? These are central questions in language evolution, but no general consensus exists on the answers, nor even on what methods to use to find answers. This is a complex topic that requires input from many disciplines, including, but not limited to, linguistics, evolutionary biology, palaeoanthropology, neurobiology, archaeology, cognitive science, and primatology. Nobody is an expert in all these areas, and experts in one area sometimes overlook needed input from other areas. Consensus does not even exist among linguists on what language is—opinions range from the physical speech acts themselves to language as an abstract social communication system to language as computational machinery in the individual and to language as an innate species-defining, genetically encoded capacity of humans. These different views of language imply very different evolutionary explanations. At the same time, all of these perspectives have some validity; the speech acts do occur, language use does take place in a social context, the individual language user does somehow produce and parse sentences, and human babies are born with a predisposition for language learning that ape babies lack. The disagreements are mainly a matter of emphasis, namely which aspects are regarded as of primary interest, requiring explanation. The preeminent linguist of the early 20th century, Ferdinand de Saussure, focused on the first two perspectives with his distinction between parole (speech acts) and langue (the social system). The preeminent linguist of the late 20th century, Noam Chomsky, focuses instead on the latter two, especially the computational machinery, and he regards the first two as not worthy of a linguist’s attention. But neither focus is adequate on its own; a viable theory of language evolution must be able to explain all aspects of language, notably both the evolution of the language capacity that resides in each human brain and the evolution of the human social context in which language is used. No generally accepted theory exists today. Instead of a single accepted theory, the field of language evolution is awash with a multitude of different models, scenarios, and hypotheses about how things might have happened. To make matters worse, there is something of a paradigm split in the study of language origins. The split is largely along the line between Saussure and Chomsky mentioned above. To put it simply, those researchers who use the label “biolinguistics” try to explain the origin of Chomsky’s computational machinery (see Biolinguistics) whereas most work on language evolution is concerned with explaining the origins of Saussure’s langue, language as a social system; the latter is here called “mainstream evolutionary linguistics.” Language evolution is not, however, about the origin of individual languages (English, Chinese, etc.). Sometimes “language evolution” is used to refer to diachronic language change in recent times, as studied by historical linguists, and an evolutionary perspective can indeed be fruitful in this area. But this article does not cover that kind of language evolution, except peripherally in Cultural Evolution.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oxford: Oxford Bibliographies, 2016
Keywords
language evolution
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
No research profile
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:du-26395 (URN)10.1093/OBO/9780199941728-0079 (DOI)
Available from: 2017-10-12 Created: 2017-10-12 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved
Johansson, S. (2016). Protolanguage possibilities in a construction grammar framework. In: S.G. Roberts, C. Cuskley, L. McCrohon, L. Barceló-Coblijn, O. Fehér & T. Verhoef (Ed.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference (EVOLANG XI): . Paper presented at EVOLANG XI, New Orleans 20-24 March 2016.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Protolanguage possibilities in a construction grammar framework
2016 (English)In: The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 11th International Conference (EVOLANG XI) / [ed] S.G. Roberts, C. Cuskley, L. McCrohon, L. Barceló-Coblijn, O. Fehér & T. Verhoef, 2016Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Identifying possible stages of protolanguage critically depends on the underlying nature of language. Theories of language differ in evolvability, and in whether they permit protolanguage stages. In this presentation, I will study the protolanguage potential and evolva­bility of Construction Grammar. Postulating that CG is a biologically real description of language, its evolvability through a sequence of intermediate protolanguages is investigated.

Keywords
Construction grammar, evolution, language evolution
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
No research profile
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:du-26393 (URN)
Conference
EVOLANG XI, New Orleans 20-24 March 2016
Available from: 2017-10-11 Created: 2017-10-11 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved
Johansson, S. (2015). Language abilities in neanderthals. Annual Review of Linguistics, 1, 311-332
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Language abilities in neanderthals
2015 (English)In: Annual Review of Linguistics, ISSN 2333-9691, Vol. 1, p. 311-332Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Neanderthal language abilities cannot be directly observed, but indirect evidence is available in their anatomy, archeology, and DNA. Neanderthal anatomy shows possible speech adaptations, and their archeology contains enough indicators of behavioral modernity, including symbols and ornaments, to conclude that their minds could handle symbolic communication. Neanderthal DNA, finally, indicates both that they possessed some of the language-relevant genes found in modern humans and that they could and did have children with modern humans. From the consilience of evidence from anatomy, archeology, and DNA, one can conclude that some language abilities, if not necessarily full modern syntactic language, were present in Neanderthals.

Keywords
Neanderthal, language
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
No research profile
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:du-17376 (URN)10.1146/annurev-linguist-030514-124945 (DOI)000350994000016 ()978-0-8243-4201-2 (ISBN)
Available from: 2015-05-13 Created: 2015-05-11 Last updated: 2017-12-20Bibliographically approved
Johansson, S. & Lindberg, Y. (2015). Wikipedia in the translanguaging classroom. In: : . Paper presented at Translanguaging - Practices, Skills and Pedagogy. Falun, 20-22 april 2015.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Wikipedia in the translanguaging classroom
2015 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia, written entirely by volunteers in 288 different languages. It is the 6th most visited of all websites, and is both the largest and the most used encyclopedia of any kind. Both teachers and students regularly use Wikipedia as a tool, but are often unaware of its translanguaging potential.

Wikipedia itself is multilingual rather than translingual, but can nevertheless be a valuable resource in the translanguaging classroom, mainly because it contains linked quasi-parallel texts in many languages on almost any topic. We see at least three levels of translanguaging Wikipedia use:

  • Source of knowledge, either in whatever language the student is most comfortable with or in a target language for language learners.
  • Comparison between languages. Both linguistic, genre, selection and perspective differences in the presentation of the same topic in different languages can give rise to fruitful classroom discourse across and between languages. These translanguaging comparisons can be an eminent tool for the development of critical thinking skills in students.
  • Translanguaging writing, where students add text to Wikipedia in multiple languages, using sources in one language to write in another. Either a Wikipedia article in one language can be created or extended using input from the same article in another language, or Wikipedia articles on the same topic in more than one language can be written concurrently.

The focus of our study is on the second point, comparison between languages. We have investigated the types of differences than can be observed between languages in articles on the same major topics, using both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Keywords
Wikipedia
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
No research profile
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:du-26392 (URN)
Conference
Translanguaging - Practices, Skills and Pedagogy. Falun, 20-22 april 2015
Available from: 2017-10-11 Created: 2017-10-11 Last updated: 2017-12-20Bibliographically approved
Johansson, S. (2014). Did language evolve incommunicado?. In: Cartmill et al (Ed.), The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference (EVOLANG 10). Paper presented at EVOLANG 10, Vienna, Austria, 14 – 17 April 2014. Singapore: World Scientific
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Did language evolve incommunicado?
2014 (English)In: The Evolution of Language: Proceedings of the 10th International Conference (EVOLANG 10) / [ed] Cartmill et al, Singapore: World Scientific, 2014Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

It is commonly assumed in evolutionary linguistics that language evolved for communication.But much recent work in biolinguistics, e.g. Chomsky (2010), proposes instead that languageevolved for purely internal use, as a cognitive tool, with no externalization until at a later stagein language evolution.How well supported is really our general assumption of communicative language origins? Doesit make sense to have instead an early stage with internal language only? I will review the argumentsinvoked in favor of the incommunicado hypothesis, and critically evaluate their strength.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Singapore: World Scientific, 2014
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:du-26391 (URN)978-981-4603-62-1 (ISBN)978-981-4603-64-5 (ISBN)
Conference
EVOLANG 10, Vienna, Austria, 14 – 17 April 2014
Available from: 2017-10-11 Created: 2017-10-11 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved
Johansson, S. (2014). Neanderthals did speak, but FOXP2 doesn't prove it. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 37(6)
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Neanderthals did speak, but FOXP2 doesn't prove it
2014 (English)In: Behavioral and Brain Sciences, ISSN 0140-525X, E-ISSN 1469-1825, Vol. 37, no 6Article in journal, Editorial material (Other academic) Published
Abstract [en]

Ackermann et al. treat both genetic and paleoanthropological data too superficially to support their conclusions. The case of FOXP2 and Neanderthals is a prime example, which I will comment on in some detail; the issues are much more complex than they appear in Ackermann et al.

National Category
Psychology
Research subject
No research profile
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:du-18598 (URN)10.1017/S0140525X13004068 (DOI)000348056700014 ()
Available from: 2015-07-01 Created: 2015-06-29 Last updated: 2017-12-20Bibliographically approved
Johansson, S. & Lindberg, Y. (2014). Students write Wikipedia articles as assessment. In: : . Paper presented at NGL2014, Next Generation Learning Conference, March 19–20 2014, Dalarna University, Falun, Sweden.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Students write Wikipedia articles as assessment
2014 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation only (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Most assessment of students is based on artificial assignments, done purely for assessment, only read by assessing teachers. Much has been written on “authentic assessment” (reviewed in Frey et al. 2012), meant to mimic “the real world” in some sense. But even this is commonly not actual real-world assignments that reach a wider audience than teachers.

Furthermore, in many educational contexts, teachers want to assess not just subject knowledge, but also e.g. writing skills, cooperative project-working skills, and skills in explaining the subject matter to others. These are non-trivial to assess either with traditional forms of assessment or with forms available in NGL contexts.

One tool for assessing cooperative writing skills in NGL contexts is Wiki technology for joint text production. This is the same technology used in Wikipedia, but in educational contexts dedicated Wiki installations are typically used, with mixed results (e.g. Bruns & Humphreys 2005, Judd et al. 2010, Guth 2007).

We have used Wikipedia itself for assessment in several courses in different subjects, from physics to literature, with fair success. Students are assigned the task of writing Wikipedia articles within the course topic.

Wikipedia assessment is suitable for courses with specific characteristics. In such courses it has multiple advantages:

  • Authentic assessment, with student texts widely read by the general public, enhancing student motivation.
  • Feedback from and enforced collaboration with both the Wikipedia community and fellow students.
  • Straightforward tracking of individual student contributions in collaborative texts.
  • No setup and maintenance of dedicated system.
  • Valuable training in source criticism.
  • Writing process…

Technical hurdles in Wikipedia writing are modest, but require some instruction. Copyright is an issue, making it legally difficult to force students to write for Wikipedia.

Frey, Schmitt, & Allen (2012), Defining Authentic Classroom Assessment. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, Vol 17, No 2:14

National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
No research profile
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:du-26390 (URN)
Conference
NGL2014, Next Generation Learning Conference, March 19–20 2014, Dalarna University, Falun, Sweden
Available from: 2017-10-11 Created: 2017-10-11 Last updated: 2017-12-20Bibliographically approved
Johansson, S. (2014). The thinking Neanderthals: what do we know about Neanderthal cognition?. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 5(6), 613-620
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The thinking Neanderthals: what do we know about Neanderthal cognition?
2014 (English)In: Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, ISSN 1939-5078, E-ISSN 1939-5086, Vol. 5, no 6, p. 613-620Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The study of Neanderthal cognition is difficult, because of the archaeological invisibility of cognition, and because of the methodological issues that arise both from that invisibility and from their being close to modern humans. Nevertheless, fair progress has been made in gathering relevant evidence. There is now good evidence that Neanderthals were cognitively sophisticated, displaying many of the cognitive traits that were traditionally regarded as proxies for modern human cognition, notably including language. It can neither be proven nor excluded that they were our cognitive equals, but they were close enough to us, biologically and cognitively, to interbreed successfully and leave a genetic legacy in our DNA. 

National Category
Psychology
Research subject
No research profile
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:du-16561 (URN)10.1002/wcs.1317 (DOI)000344354200001 ()
Available from: 2014-12-22 Created: 2014-12-22 Last updated: 2017-12-20Bibliographically approved
Johansson, S. (2004). The individual and the species in the cultural evolution of language. In: : . Paper presented at EELC, Brussels.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The individual and the species in the cultural evolution of language
2004 (English)Conference paper, Published paper (Other (popular science, discussion, etc.))
Abstract [en]

The origin of language is a problem involving complex interactions between a number of different evolving systems. Language per se, regarded as a cultural/memetic entity, is one of the evolving systems, and its evolution is of major importance in the origin of modern human language. Possible structural parallels between language evolution and biological evolution are discussed. Genes, organisms, and species are key concepts in biology, and an understanding of the corresponding levels in language is needed for any fruitful linguistic application of theoretical tools from evolutionary biology. I identify candidate linguistic ’genes’, ’organisms’ and ’species’, and discuss implications for language evolution.

Keywords
Language evolution, cultural evolution, idiolect, species
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:du-13694 (URN)
Conference
EELC, Brussels
Note

presented at Evolutionary Epistemology, Language & Culture Brussels, May 2004

Available from: 2007-07-19 Created: 2014-02-05 Last updated: 2018-09-03Bibliographically approved
Organisations

Search in DiVA

Show all publications