Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation

Did human grammar(s) evolve?

October 28, 2015

Excerpt from an OUPblog article, published on 8th October, by Ljiljana Progovac, Professor and Director of the Linguistics Program at Wayne State University in Detroit. She is author of Evolutionary Syntax, which is now available on Oxford Scholarship Online.

Evolutionary Syntax

 "In order to hypothesize about the evolutionary origins of grammar, it is essential to rely on some theory or model of human grammars. Interestingly, scholars engaged in the theoretical study of grammar (syntacticians), particularly those working within the influential framework associated with linguist Noam Chomsky, have been reluctant to consider a gradualist, selection-based approach to grammar. Nonetheless, these scholars have come up with an elaborate and precise theory of human grammars. It has recently been shown that this syntactic theory can in fact be used, precise as it is, to reconstruct the stages of the earliest grammars, and to even point to the constructions in present-day languages which resemble/approximate these early proto-grammars. These constructions can be considered “living fossils” of early grammars, as they have continued to live alongside more recently evolved structures."

Discover more: Read more about the evolution of human grammar in Ljiljana's article 'Did human grammar(s) evolve?'. The introduction of Evolutionary Syntax is now freely available until the end of December. Get access to the full text of this book, as well as hundreds of Oxford Music titles, by recommending OSO to your librarian today.