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The Natural History of Human Language: Bridging the Gaps without Magic

  • Bjorn Merker
  • Kazuo Okanoya

Abstract

Human languages are quintessentially historical phenomena. Every known aspect of linguistic form and content is subject to change in historical time (Lehmann, 1995; Bybee, 2004). Many facts of language, syntactic no less than semantic, find their explanation in the historical processes that generated them. If adpositions were once verbs, then the fact that they tend to occur on the same side of their arguments as do verbs (“cross-category harmony”: Hawkins, 1983) is a matter of historical contingency rather than a reflection of inherent structural constraints on human language (Delancey, 1993).

Keywords

Historical Process Human Language Intergenerational Transmission Humpback Whale Vocal Learning 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag London Limited 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bjorn Merker
    • 1
  • Kazuo Okanoya
    • 2
  1. 1.SegeltorpSweden
  2. 2.RIKEN Brain Science InstituteJapan

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