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Pointer evolution points to the gradual evolution of hierarchical complexity
Dalarna University, Not School affiliated.
2020 (English)In: The Evolution of Language. Proceedings of the 13th International Conference on the Evolution of Language (EvoLang 13) / [ed] Ravignani et al, Evolang organizing committee , 2020, p. 189-196Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Chomsky (e.g. 2010) and others regard unlimited Merge as the defining feature of language, that cannot evolve gradually. The neural implementation of Merge is not well understood (Rizzi 2012, Zaccarella et al 2017), but must involve something functionally equivalent to pointers in working memory. Every Merge requires two pointers, and full syntactic trees may require dozens. Other syntactic paradigms also need pointers.

Humans do hierarchies in general better than chimpanzees. Any hierarchical thinking requires nested pointers in working memory, but they are neurologically expensive and degrade with depth (Crawford et al. 2016). Humans have larger working-memory capacity than chimpanzees, which has been proposed as key to human cognitive evolution (Read 2008, Coolidge & Wynn, 2005). Gradual evolutionary growth of pointer capacity will allow gradually increasing syntactic complexity, without saltations in the underlying computational machinery. Both depth degradation and pointer capacity naturally limit Merge even in modern humans, consistent with corpus data (e.g. Karlsson 2010).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Evolang organizing committee , 2020. p. 189-196
Series
Proceedings of the International Conference on the Evolution of Language, ISSN 2666-917X
Keywords [en]
language evolution, working memory, pointers
National Category
General Language Studies and Linguistics
Research subject
Intercultural Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:du-32578OAI: oai:DiVA.org:du-32578DiVA, id: diva2:1426925
Conference
Evolang XIII
Available from: 2020-04-28 Created: 2020-04-28 Last updated: 2020-04-29Bibliographically approved

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https://brussels.evolang.org/proceedings/evolang13_proceedings.pdf

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Johansson, Sverker

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CiteExportLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Cite
Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • chicago-author-date
  • chicago-note-bibliography
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
  • fi-FI
  • nn-NO
  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
  • html
  • text
  • asciidoc
  • rtf