Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Back to Blogging Soon

Today I handed in my last essay for this term and I really hope I'll be able to post more regularly now.

Meanhwile, both Neurophilosophy and Babel's Dawn have interesting posts up regarding work done by Ofer Tchernichovski, Olga Feher, and her colleagues regarding the tendency of birdsong to converge on the on the standard wildtype-model after a few generations when the first generation was isolate and had no model output they could adopt. (although I find it a bit misleading if birdsong is called language as is done over at the otherwise excellent blog Neurophilosopy)

This happened by small variations the birds made to their input over a couple of generations. These variations accumulated an in the end yielded the wild-type.

In the words of the authors:
"Thus, species-typical song culture can appear de novo. Our study has parallels with language change and evolution. In analogy to models in quantitative genetics, we model song culture as a multigenerational phenotype partly encoded genetically in an isolate founding population, influenced by environmental variables and taking multiple generations to emerge." (Feher et al. 2009).
The question now is inhowfar we can draw a parallel to how human language may be genetically encoded. The topic has been covered previously (here) and although there are also opposing views, (see, for example, Derek Bickerton here), it seems that a consensus is about to emerge that sees language acquisition as the interplay between social learning, innate biases, and more general cognitive capacities. (see, e.g. here and here)

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