Title of Project: The Third Factor in Language Evolution
My research addresses how Homo sapiens uniquely acquired an ability for language some time in the past seven million years. I aim to root our species’ apparent evolutionary luck in deep principles of cognitive design by relating the study of bio-linguistics to theories of minimalist syntax and its interfaces with morphology and semantics.
The task I in effect set myself is to show how it is possible to model the structure of language as the structure of (some part of) thought itself, rather than as merely a facilitator for the communication of thoughts, with structures that remain obscure. If successful, this model would suggest that the structure of language has precursors in our non-human ancestors and is likely shared by many other modern species, despite the uniqueness of our communicative ability. Contrary to other prominent hypotheses in generative linguistics, I therefore hope to establish that our species need only have evolved such a communicative ability, the underlying structure being pre-existent.