jess tauber phonosemantics at
Fri Jun 13 19:30:11 UTC 2008

The notion that different brains and brain patterns can still converge on the 'same' language seems very familiar to me- recent work in developmental biology (and I'm surprised one of the discussants hasn't chimed in here....) shows that genetic systems can operate in a very similar fashion. That is, in developing embryos, parental genes and donated structures guide the initial stages, providing a sort of memory or scaffolding upon which to build the phenotypically common baseline form. This latter form is converged upon, and there can be wild variation of ordering of subevents leading to it due to divergent evolution and adaptation (as for instance the switch from egg-laying to live birth).

Only after this convergence to the phenotype does the embryo's own genetic configuration begin to dominate, and these genes also create divergent structural specification as growth proceeds to adulthood. Think of light coming to and moving beyond a focus as a convenient mental image.

The latter half of this developmental scenario probably depends more on deactivation of genes than activation as cellular and organ specialization continues- the reverse perhaps of the initial stage? Does something similar happen with the development of the brain and communicative mechanisms? Automated mass creation of the scaffolding and connectivity followed by paring down of these connections selectively during experience and learning, with variable reinforcement of remaining connections mediating in between? New local connections creation might parallel activation of specialized genes within organs and tissues?

Jess Tauber
phonosemantics at

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