276biologicalfoundationsofmhl

276biologicalfoundationsofmhl - Modern Human Language:...

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Modern Human Language: Biological Foundations
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MODERN HUMAN LANGUAGE: Biological Foundations Why do we think of MHL as a property of AMH as a biological species? A) Rapidity of "language acquisition" in children, in spite of the fact that children are not "taught" to speak. This is called the "Poverty of the Stimulus" argument. Especially important is that children cannot learn what not to do, yet there are many possible structures that they never produce, in spite of the absence of "Negative Evidence." B) Robustness of MHL in the face of deafness: Deaf children will develop signed languages that seem to have properties that are virtually identical to those of spoken language, and the number of local signed languages around the world may be very large (although local signed languages are "endangered" by the spread of national standard signed languages). C) Robustness of MHL in the face of profound retardation. In "Williams Syndrome," subjects exhibit cranio-facial malformation, retardation (they are especially bad at numbers), but are very fluent in language and good at music.
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Modern Human Language: Biological Foundations D) Some evidence of genetic control over specific dimensions of language: The KE's, a British family, includes members who have a) slightly lower IQ's (by 18-20 points) than unaffected family members; b) “verbal dyspraxia” -- difficulty coordinating movements of speech that makes it hard to repeat multisyllabic words (but no difficulty with limb/hand movements); c) “verbal dysphasia” including inability to conjugate the English "weak verbs" like walk/walked, kiss/kissed – the “strong verbs” like bring/brought, sing/sang/sung are OK. Affected KE’s have a single-point mutation at site 553 on the FOXP2 gene
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This note was uploaded on 05/06/2009 for the course ANTH 276 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at University of Arizona- Tucson.

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276biologicalfoundationsofmhl - Modern Human Language:...

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