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Function, Selection, and Innateness : The Emergence of Language Universals - Simon Kirby

Function, Selection, and Innateness

The Emergence of Language Universals

Hardcover Published: 1st March 1999
ISBN: 9780198238119
Number Of Pages: 172

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This book explores issues at the core of modern linguistics and cognitive science. Why are all languages similar in some ways and in others utterly different? Why do languages change and change variably? How did the human capacity for language evolve, and how far did it do so as an innate ability? Simon Kirby looks at these questions from a broad perspective, arguing that they can (indeed must) be studied together. The author begins by examining how far the universal properties of language may be explained by examining the way it is used, and how far by the way it is structured. He then considers what insights may be gained by combining functional and formal approaches. In doing so he develops a way of treating language as an adaptive system, in which its communicative and formal roles are both crucial and complementary. In order to test the effectiveness of competing theories and explanations, Simon Kirby develops computational models to show what universals emerge given a particular theory of language use or acquisition. He presents here both the methodology and the results. Function, Selection, and Innateness is important for its argument, its methodology, and its conclusions. It is a powerful demonstration of the value of looking at language as an adaptive system and goes to the heart of current debates on the evolution and nature of language.

`a lucid survey of different types of language universals.' Flip G. Droste, Linguistics 38-4 (2000). `a provocative and inspiring work, offering the link between functional pressure and the universal principles of grammar.' Flip G. Droste, Linguistics 38-4 (2000). `the latest, and in my opinion, the most creative, of an increasing number of works designed to demonstrate that there is no incompatibility between autonomous generative syntax and a functional explanation for why grammars have the properties they have ... a magnificent demonstration of the adaption of language structure to external pressure.' F Newmeyer, Journal of Linguistics `A brilliant, innovative computer-simulated exploration into the problem of linkage--a missing link in the current functional attempts at explaining language universals: how functional pressures grammaticalise and become innate properties governing human language and its acquisition. In these ... richly illustrated ... pages Simon Kirby succeeds admirably in integrating usage-based functional approaches and formal, innatist theories. This intelligent, thought-provoking book is an essential reading for all those concerned with grammatical theory--functional or formal, language universals, linguistic typology and historical change.' Masayoshi Shibatani, Kobe University `This is an important contribution to linguistics, and one that will be of interest to linguists of all theoretical persuasions to those in virtually all subfields. There are very few other books out that treat issues of form and function in linguistics as thoroughly and as even-handedly as this one.' Frederick J. Newmeyer, University of Washington `A brilliant, innovative computer-simulated exploration into the problem of linkage - a missing link in the current functional attempts at explaining language universals: how functional pressures grammaticalise and become innate properties governing human language and its acquisition. In these short, but richly-illustrated, pages Simon Kirby succeeds admirably in integrating usage-based functional approaches and formal, innatist theories. This intelligent, thought-provoking book is an essential reading for all those concerned with grammatical theory - functional or formal, language universals, linguistic typology and historical change.' Professor Masayoshi Shibatani, Kobe University `In this important and highly original work Simon Kirby proposes a new method for addressing a major issue in the explanation of language universals. If many universals are to be explained by processing efficiency, then how do the preferences of performance actually become the fixed, and variant, conventions of grammars that we observe in current language samples? Kirby's computer simulations model the 'adaptive mechanism', and his discussion of the relationship between function, selection and innateness is both clarifying and timely.' John A. Hawkins, Department of Linguistics, University of Southern California

1: A Puzzle of Fit 2: The Impact of Processing on Word Order 3: Hierarchies and Competing Motivations 4: The Limits of Functional Adaptation 5: Innateness and Function in Linguistics 6: Conclusion

ISBN: 9780198238119
ISBN-10: 0198238118
Audience: Professional
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 172
Published: 1st March 1999
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Country of Publication: GB
Dimensions (cm): 24.1 x 16.0  x 1.6
Weight (kg): 0.39