This of course assumes that "Language has made our species what it is" [xi], that our world must be controlled, that we have to understand it to control it, and that baby-talk and pidgin provide "indispensable keys" to the knowledge of the Language required to engage the control. Creole languages came into existence as a result of colonial expansion out of Europe Speakers of different languages developed an auxiliary contact-language native to none of them pidgin , and this tongue expanded to become a new native language of the community creole. Derek Bickerson shows that people have "innate knowledge" of the structure of language. Also, children "expect" a grammar comparable to creole as they begin to learn a language.

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For twenty-four years he was a Professor of Linguistics at the University of Hawaii , having meanwhile received a Ph. He is the father of contemporary artist Ashley Bickerton.

The NSF deemed the proposed experiment unethical and refused to fund it. In Language and Species , he suggests that all three questions might be answered by postulating that the origin of language can be traced to the evolution of representation systems and symbolic thinking, together with a later development of formal syntax. Using primitive communication faculties, which then evolved in parallel, mental models became shared representations subject to cultural evolution.

In Lingua ex Machina , he and William Calvin revise this speculative theory by considering the biological foundations of symbolic representation and their influence on the evolution of the brain. In his memoir Bastard Tongues , he describes himself as a "street linguist" who emphasizes field work, with a "total lack of respect for the respectable", [1] and he outlines his theories for a general audience. He claims that human language is not on a continuum with animal communication systems ACSs but is a qualitatively different communicative system.

Animal communication systems are only indexical , restricted to conveying information about immediate circumstances insofar as these impinge upon individual survival, reproduction, and social relations. Human language, on the other hand, is capable of spatial and temporal displacement.

Bickerton argues that peculiar features characterizing the ecological niche of early man allowed for this breakthrough from an ACS into language. He cites the fact that around two million years ago our ancestors were finding their way to the top of a scavenging pyramid, accessing the carcasses of megafauna before other predators and holding them off by working in coordinated groups.

By imitating an animal, like a mammoth, one member could attempt to communicate information about such food sources. Although such imitative signaling retained an iconic character rather than fully symbolic, they involved an act of displacement in communication since the body could be miles away and discovered hours earlier.

Over time, the sounds signifying something like a mammoth would be decontextualized and come to resemble something much more closely resembling a word. Displacement, Bickerton claims, is the hallmark feature of language.

Words began as the anchors for sensory information and memories about a specific animal or object. Bickerton died in March at the age of


Derek Bickerton

Page 1 of 1 Start over Page 1 of 1. In recent years he has written extensively on the evolution of language. Share your thoughts with other customers. The book also served to legitimize and stimulate research in language evolution, a topic regarded as off-limits by linguists for over a century. AmazonGlobal Ship Orders Internationally.


Roots of language






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