Constraining the arbirariness of exaptationist accounts of the evolution of language

Botha R. (2011)


This article shows that both earlier and more recent accounts on which certain features of language arose by exaptation are arbitrary in not including pertinent evidence for the claims expressed by them. By way of illustration, it analyzes in some depth Noam Chomsky's account of the origin of the operation called " Merge" , an account which assigns a central role to the phenomenon of emergence. The shortcomings of the accounts under consideration are shown to result from the fact that they are not underpinned by a restrictive general theory of exaptation from which appropriate conditions of evidence can be derived. Drawing on Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy's account of the origins of complex language, the article outlines in conclusion a possible approach to constraining the arbitrariness of the exaptationist accounts at issue. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.

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