, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 61–82 | Cite as

Can Internalism and Externalism be Reconciled in a Biological Epistemology of Language?

  • Prakash MondalEmail author
Original Paper


This paper is an attempt at exploring the possibility of reconciling the two interpretations of biolinguistics which have been recently projected by Koster (Biolinguistics 3(1):61–92, 2009). The two interpretations—trivial and nontrivial—can be roughly construed as non-internalist and internalist conceptions of biolinguistics respectively. The internalist approach boils down to a conception of language where language as a mental grammar in the form of I-language grows and functions like a biological organ. On the other hand, under such a construal consistent with Koster’s (Biolinguistics 3(1):61-92, 2009), the non-internalist version does not necessarily have to be externalist in nature; rather it is a matter of mutual reinforcement of biology and culture under the rubric of a co-evolutionary dynamics. Here it will be argued that the apparent dichotomy between these two conceptions of biolinguistics can perhaps be resolved if we have a richer synthesis that accounts for both internalism and non-internalism.


Biolinguistics Internalism Non-internalism Theoretical synthesis 


  1. Adams, F., & Aizawa, K. (2010). Defending the bounds of cognition. In R. Menary (Ed.), The extended mind. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  2. Archangeli, D., & Pulleyblank, D. (1994). Grounded phonology. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  3. Balari, S., & Lorenzo, G. (2009). Computational phenotypes: where the theory of computation meets evo-devo. Biolinguistics, 3(1), 2–60.Google Scholar
  4. Barbieri, M. (2010). On the origin of language: a bridge between biolinguistics and biosemiotics. Biosemiotics, 3, 201–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bates, E. (1994). Modularity, domain specificity and the development of language. Discussions in Neuroscience, 10(1/2), 136–149.Google Scholar
  6. Bates, E. (1997). Origins of language disorders: A comparative approach. In D. J. Thal & J. Reilly (Eds.), Special issue on origins of communication disorders. Developmental Neuropsychology 13(3), 447–476.Google Scholar
  7. Bates, E. (1999). Plasticity, localization and language development. In S. H. Broman & J. M. Fletcher (Eds.), The changing nervous system: Neurobehavioral consequences of early brain disorders (pp. 214–253). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bickerton, D., & Szathmary, E. (Eds.). (2009). Biological foundations and origin of syntax. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  9. Carr, P. (1990). Linguistic realities. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Chomsky, N. (1986). Knowledge of language: Its nature, origin, and use. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  11. Chomsky, N. (1995). The minimalist program. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  12. Chomsky, N. (2000). New horizons in the study of language and mind. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Clark, A. (1997). Being there: Putting brain, body and world together again. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  14. Christiansen, M. H., & Chater, N. (2008). Language as shaped by the brain. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 31(5), 489–509.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Dabrowska, E. (2004). Language, mind and brain. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Diamond, A. (2002). Normal development of prefrontal cortex from birth to young adulthood: Cognitive functions, anatomy and biochemistry. In D. T. Stuss & R. T. Knight (Eds.), Principles of frontal lobe function (pp. 466–503). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Diamond, A. (2007). Interrelated and interdependent. Developmental Science, 10, 152–158.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Diamond, A. (2009). All or none hypothesis: a global-default mode that characterizes the brain and mind. Developmental Psychology, 45, 130–138.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Di Sciullo, A.-M. (2005a). Asymmetry in morphology. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  20. Di Sciullo, A.-M. (Ed.). (2005b). UG and external systems: Language, brain and computation. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  21. Dik, S. C. (1997a). The Theory of functional grammar. Part I: The structure of the clause. K. Hengeveld (Ed.). Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  22. Dik, S. C. (1997b). The theory of functional grammar. Part II: Complex and derived structures. K. Hengeveld (Ed.). Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  23. Dobzhansky, T. (1973). Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution. American Biology Teacher, 35, 125–129.Google Scholar
  24. Dowman, M., Kirby, S., & Griffiths, T. L. (2006). Innateness and culture in the evolution of language. In A. Cangelosi, A. Smith & K. Smith (Eds.), Proceedings of the 6th international conference on the evolution of language. World Scientific.Google Scholar
  25. Downing, P., Chan, A. W., Peelan, M., Dodds, C., & Kanwisher, N. (2005). Domain specificity in visual cortex. Cerebral Cortex, 16, 1453–1461.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Edelman, S. (2008). Computing the mind: How the mind really works. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  27. Evans, N., & Levinson, S. C. (2009). The myth of language universals. Language diversity and its importance for cognitive science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 32, 429–492.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Fasold, R. (1990). The sociolinguistics of language. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  29. Fitch, W. T. (2009). Prolegomena to a future science of biolinguistics. Biolinguistics, 3(4), 283–320.Google Scholar
  30. Fletcher, P., & Miller, J. F. (Eds.). (2005). Developmental theory and language disorders. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  31. Fodor, J. (1983). The modularity of mind: An essay on faculty psychology. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  32. Gillon, B. S. (2008). On the semantics/pragmatics distinction. Synthese, 165(3), 373–384.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Givón, T. (1995). Functionalism and grammar. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  34. Givón, T. (2002). Bio-linguistics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  35. Givón, T. (2005). Context as other minds: The pragmatics of sociality, cognition and communication. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  36. Gobet, F. (2005). Modularity and chunking. In W. Callebaut & D. Rasskin-Gutman (Eds.), Modularity: Understanding the development and evolution of natural complex systems (pp. 331–352). Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  37. Goudsmit, A. L. (2009). Sense and self-referentiality in living beings. Biosemiotics, 2, 39–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Halliday, M. A. K. (1973). Explorations in the functions of language. London: Edwin Arnold.Google Scholar
  39. Halliday, M. A. K. (1985). An introduction to functional grammar. London: Edwin Arnold.Google Scholar
  40. Hauser, M. D., Chomsky, N., & Fitch, T. W. (2002). The faculty of language: what is it, who has it, and how did it evolve? Science, 298, 1569–1579.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Hawkins, J. A. (2004). Complexity and efficiency in grammars. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hengeveld, K. (2005). Dynamic expression in functional discourse grammar. In C. de Groot & K. Hengeveld (Eds.), Morphosyntactic expression in functional grammar (pp. 53–86). Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.Google Scholar
  43. Hengeveld, K., Rijkhoff, J., & Siewierska, A. (2004). Parts of speech systems and word order. Journal of Linguistics, 40(3), 527–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Jackendoff, R. (2002). Foundations of language: Brain, meaning, grammar, evolution. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Jackendoff, R. (2007). Language, consciousness, culture: Essays on mental structure. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  46. Johnson, M. H., & Morton, J. (1991). Biology and cognitive development: The case of face recognition. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  47. Johnson, M. H., Munakata, Y., & Gilmore, R. O. (Eds.). (1993). Brain development and cognition: A reader. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  48. Johnson, M. H., Grossmann, T., & Cohen-Kadosh, K. (2009). Mapping functional brain development: building a social brain through interactive specialization. Developmental Psychology, 45, 151–155.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Karmiloff-Smith, A. (1992). Beyond modularity: A developmental perspective on cognitive science. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  50. Karmiloff-Smith, A. (1998). Development itself is the key to understanding developmental disorders. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2(10), 389–398.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Karmiloff-Smith, A. (2006). Modularity of mind and language. In K. Brown (Ed.), Encyclopedia of language and linguistics (Vol. 8, pp. 218–224). Oxford: Elsvier.Google Scholar
  52. Kelso, J. A. S. (1995). Dynamic patterns. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  53. Kelso, J. A. S. (2002). The complementary nature of coordination dynamics: self-organization and the origins of agency. Journal of Nonlinear Phenomena in Complex Systems, 5, 364–371.Google Scholar
  54. Kelso, J. A. S., & Engstrom, D. A. (2006). The complementary nature. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  55. Kingsbury, M. A., & Finlay, B. L. (2001). The cortex in multidimensional space: where do cortical areas come from? Developmental Science, 4, 125–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Kinsella, A. R. (2009). Language evolution and syntactic theory. New York: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Kirby, S. (1996). Function, selection and innateness: The emergence of language universals. Dissertation, University of Edinburgh.Google Scholar
  58. Koster, J. (2009). Ceaseless, unpredictable creativity: language as technology. Biolinguistics, 3(1), 61–92.Google Scholar
  59. Lakoff, G. (1987). Women, fire and dangerous things: What categories tell us about the human mind. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  60. Langacker, R. (1987). Foundations of cognitive grammar (Vol. 2). Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Locke, J. L. (2009). Evolutionary developmental linguistics: naturalization of the faculty of language. Language Sciences, 31, 33–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Lohndal, T., & Narita, H. (2009). Internalism as methodology. Biolinguistics, 3(4), 321–331.Google Scholar
  63. Marcus, G. (2004). The birth of the mind: How a tiny number of genes creates the complexities of human thought. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  64. Marr, D. (1982). Vision: A computational investigation into the human representation and processing of visual information. New York: W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  65. Mascaró, J. (2007). External allomorphy and lexical representation. Linguistic Inquiry, 38, 715–735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Mondal, P. (2009). How language processing constrains (computational) natural language processing: A cognitive perspective. In Proceedings of 23rd Pacific Asia Conference on Language, Information and Computation. Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  67. Neelman, A., & Weerman, F. (1998). Flexible syntax: A theory of case and arguments. Dordrecht: Kluwer.Google Scholar
  68. Smith, N., & Law, A. (2009). On parametric (and non-parametric) variation. Biolinguistics, 3(4), 332–343.Google Scholar
  69. Thomsen, N. O. (Ed.). (2006). Competing models of linguistic change: Evolution and beyond (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 279). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar
  70. Tomasello, M. (2008). The origins of human communication. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  71. Torey, Z. (2009). The crucible of consciousness: An integrated theory of mind and brain. Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indian Institute of TechnologyDelhiIndia

Personalised recommendations