Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: Evolutionary Dynamics Do Not Motivate a Single-Mutant Theory of Human Language
Author: Boer, Bart de
Thompson, Bill
Ravignani, Andrea
Boeckx, Cedric
Keywords: Origen del llenguatge
Adquisició del llenguatge
Evolució humana
Genètica evolutiva
Origin of languages
Language acquisition
Human evolution
Evolutionary genetics
Issue Date: 16-Jan-2020
Publisher: Nature Publishing Group
Abstract: One of the most controversial hypotheses in cognitive science is the Chomskyan evolutionary conjecture that language arose instantaneously in humans through a single mutation. Here we analyze the evolutionary dynamics implied by this hypothesis, which has never been formalized before. The hypothesis supposes the emergence and fixation of a single mutant (capable of the syntactic operation Merge) during a narrow historical window as a result of frequency-independent selection under a huge fitness advantage in a population of an effective size no larger than ~15 000 individuals. We examine this proposal by combining diffusion analysis and extreme value theory to derive a probabilistic formulation of its dynamics. We find that although a macro-mutation is much more likely to go to fixation if it occurs, it is much more unlikely a priori than multiple mutations with smaller fitness effects. The most likely scenario is therefore one where a medium number of mutations with medium fitness effects accumulate. This precise analysis of the probability of mutations occurring and going to fixation has not been done previously in the context of the evolution of language. Our results cast doubt on any suggestion that evolutionary reasoning provides an independent rationale for a single-mutant theory of language.
Note: Reproducció del document publicat a:
It is part of: Scientific Reports, 2020, vol. 10, p. 451
Related resource:
ISSN: 2045-2322
Appears in Collections:Articles publicats en revistes (Filologia Catalana i Lingüística General)
Publicacions de projectes de recerca finançats per la UE

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
695277.pdf1.1 MBAdobe PDFView/Open

This item is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons