Language as an Adaptation to the Cognitive Niche *
One theory proposed that the human ability for language is a complex biological adaptation evolved by way of natural selection. This chapter updates the theory in the light of new empirical data and the theoretical alternatives that have emerged since its introduction. It discusses a number of properties of the language system that give the appearance of complex design. By analogy to the visual system, the book argues that the only plausible explanation for the evolution of such complex adaptive design is one that involves natural selection. On this account, language has evolved as an innate specialisation to code propositional information (such as who did what to whom, when, where, and why) for the purpose of social information-gathering and exchange within a humanly distinct ‘cognitive niche’. In further support of this perspective, the chapter concludes with a discussion of recent evidence regarding the possible genetic bases of language and the application of mathematical game theory to language evolution.
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