Language Evolution and Computation
Speaker: Dan Silverman (San José State University)
Topic: "Evolution of the speech code: higher-order symbolism and the linguistic Big Bang"
Abstract: As our ancestors innovatively juxtaposed one meaning-bearing sound to another, a huge increase in the inventory of speech sounds was triggered. Still, sporadic semantic ambiguity required deeper structural analyses in order for listeners to extract intended meanings, culminating in the emergence of compositional, post-compositional, and ultimately hierarchically-arranged and recursive constituent structures. These primordial pressures and their yielded structures, in remarkably similar function and form, continue to constrain, shape, and change the speech code to this very day. The early juxtaposition of two meaning-bearing sounds was thus both necessary and sufficient for full-blown linguistic complexity to evolve, triggering a linguistic "Big Bang".