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).
- Historical Process
- Human Language
- Intergenerational Transmission
- Humpback Whale
- Vocal Learning
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The claim that song is without meaning does not imply that it is without purpose, nor that song characteristics do not convey information. Factors such as proficiency and complexity serve to impress, and different exemplars of song are bound to vary in the extent to which they do so, and thus they do carry information in this sense. But that is something altogether different from the way in which sentence structure is linked to propositional meaning in human language, a feature entirely absent from animal song.
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Merker, B., Okanoya, K. (2007). The Natural History of Human Language: Bridging the Gaps without Magic. In: Lyon, C., Nehaniv, C.L., Cangelosi, A. (eds) Emergence of Communication and Language. Springer, London. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-84628-779-4_21
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