Evolution and Grammaticalization

Salinas17 at aol.com Salinas17 at aol.com
Tue Feb 28 15:47:40 UTC 2006

In a message dated 2/26/06 11:12:55 AM, phonosemantics at earthlink.net writes:
<< 'Mutation' is a pretty squishy notion- all the really interesting (from 
the evolutionary standpoint) alterations happen at higher levels than classical 
point mutations in DNA- involving rearrangements of blocks of materials,...>>

Mutation may be squishy, but the randomness element is not.  As much as a 
progressive or goal-oriented tone has snuck into current evolutionary 
terminology, there's still no reason to assume any Lamarckian "striving" in biological 
evolution.   The degree of complexity comes out of the degree of diversity.  We 
have no reason to assume otherwise.  

Dawkins criticism of Gould -- that he did not recognize the "cumulative" 
effect of biological evolution -- is off the point.  The accumulation of traits or 
mechanisms -- no matter how complex or plastic they may become -- is still 
generated by randomness.  And all that accumulation of adaptive strategies is 
totally dependent on the environment for its survival.  An organism that is 
plastic or complex enough to adapt to many different environments has a survival 
advantage.   But that kind of organism comes from the same place that 
specialized organisms come from -- randomness in the evolutionary process.

Grammaticalization -- at some important level -- involves intentionality.  No 
matter what the two processes share in structure, that makes 
grammaticalization different from evolution.  Grammar grows not just because of diversity, but 
because of some common human objectives guiding it.

Once again, repeated in this thread is the idea that the "functionality" of 
language somehow equals cognition.  Then let me ask the question, what is the 
function driving cognition?  Or, better, what master do both cognition and 
language serve?  Answer that and you may have a better idea of how language and 
evolution are alike.

Steve Long

More information about the Funknet mailing list