Nature article in the news

s.t. bischoff at
Thu Apr 14 19:12:19 UTC 2011

Hi all,

Here is an LA Times story that may be of interest...haven't had a chance to
track down the original Nature article yet...would be curious to hear

Culture trumps biology in language development, study argues Researchers
construct evolutionary trees for four linguistic groups and conclude that
cultures, not innate preferences, drive the language rules humans create –
contrary to the findings of noted linguists Noam Chomsky and Joseph
Are the rules of language encoded in our
or are they primarily shaped by the speaker's cultural context?

Leading linguistic thinkers have argued that our brains are hard-wired for
languages to follow certain sets of rules. But a team of scientists is
challenging that premise in a study published online Wednesday in the
journal Nature.

The team used biological tools to construct evolutionary trees for four
language families and found that each of the families followed its own
idiosyncratic structural rules, a sign that humans' language choices are
driven by culture rather than innate preferences.

The authors say their findings run contrary to the idea of Noam
generative grammar, which says the brain has hard and fast ordering rules
for language. They also contradict the "universal rules" of Joseph H.
Greenberg, who said languages tended to choose certain patterns over others.,0,1473928.story


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