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LING 1010 Notes Lectures 22 and 23

by: Sarah Skinger

LING 1010 Notes Lectures 22 and 23 LING 1010

Sarah Skinger
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These notes cover what was discussed during lecture 22: The Evolution of The Human Mind and Meaning, and lecture 23: The Evolution of Language: Meaning to Form
Introduction to Languages and Linguistics
Hendrikus Van Der Hulst
Class Notes
ling, 1010, Lecture, 22, 23
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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by Sarah Skinger on Wednesday April 27, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to LING 1010 at University of Connecticut taught by Hendrikus Van Der Hulst in Spring 2016. Since its upload, it has received 44 views. For similar materials see Introduction to Languages and Linguistics in Linguistics and Speech Pathology at University of Connecticut.


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Date Created: 04/27/16
Lecture 22: The Evolution of the Human Mind and Meaning  Meaning, in this case, means our ability to think, our capacity for thoughts,  feelings, emotions, envisioning and creating concepts, etc.  Our mind if disconnected from the immediate environment, meaning that we can  talk and think about things other than what’s right in front of us.  The Theory of Mind­ We have the ability to “read people’s minds”, or,  interpret/think about what others are thinking (whether they are annoyed at us, or sad, thought our joke was funny, etc). We can change our behavior based on  what we interpret from that. How we Evolved  Our ancestors (mostly chimps etc) lived in Africa  7 million years ago, there was a split in Africa, and chimps ended up on one side  of this divide, and our ancestors on the other.  Due to the difference in climate and landscape, we had to come down from the  trees, maybe because there weren’t as many as there had been before. Once on the ground, over the next few million years we eventually began walking upright,  as that made us taller and gave us a height advantage on the flat lands.  We developed language, and that ability to collaborate with each other allowed  us to outcompete Neanderthals for resources, and they eventually died off. o Neanderthals had tools but not religion. Our Evolution “Tree”  Is really more like a bush, because there were just so many different species that branched off of each other. However, they all died out fairly quickly, so those  “branches” aren’t very long.  Basically, Hominoids (apes) → Hominids (greater apes) → Hominins (Human like  species) → Homo → Homo Sapiens (us)  Lucy is the name of a female skeleton of a small chimpanzee like animal. She  walked on two legs, and is believed to be an early hominin  Homo Flores­ descendants of Homo Erectus, were discovered on Flores. Were  very short­ just over three feet tall. Homo Sapiens  People debate over the date at which the genus Homo Sapiens first appeared.  They debate over whether it should be categorized based off of their mental or  physical development o The body is suspected to have developed earlier than the mind did.  All other Homo species have been extinct; we are the only ones left. Evolution of the Mind  The cultural big bang theory­ says that something changed in the minds of these  people living 40,000 years ago. That change allowed them to produce art and  language (the number of artifacts increased around that time) o The problem: This dates the beginning of language as much too late­  language began far before this.  Writing is fairly new, people in Africa didn’t have it, although they might have had  a spoken or gesture language.  Alternative to cultural big bang theory­ There has been a gradual increase in  artifacts, which could correspond with a gradual increase in language. Adopting  language was a gradual stepwise process (Ex: one step was proto­language)  The development of the body shows prerequisites for language: increasing brain  size, structure of the body, having a skull, hands (could have been a gesture  language), larynx (allows us to pronounce many sounds), etc.  Development of Language  Language is based on structure o The structure in a sentence is syntax o The structure in a word is phonology  A word is a sign­ it has a form, a meaning, and a word category (noun, verb etc)  A call, like the ones made by animals, is made when a concept in their “lexicon”  identified a referent in the environment (like a predator), and they produce the  form that goes along with recognizing that thing. o For instance, a chicken recognizes a hawk, then produces the sound that  means “there’s an aerial predator” o Concept → Referent → Form  But for us, we don’t need to see the referent in order to say something about that. We can say something about something else without seeing it. The referent does not need to be present in order for us to talk about it o Ex: We might say “snake!” as a joke, even if there is no snake there.  When the mind no longer tied together concepts and referents, it became  disconnected from the here and now, which allows us to think and talk about  things that are not present in our immediate environment.  You can influence what others think about, by saying something like “the dog is  sick”. Then the person listening will automatically think of concepts and images  relating to “the dog is sick”.  It wasn’t too difficult for humans to develop a more meaningful/ complete  language once we no longer required a referent to talk about something. We  already had the ability to produce call systems (like sounding alarms), so we just  needed to adopt a secondary function that would allow us to express other  things.  First we developed concepts for things, and then the words for them. This gave  us signs and symbolic capacity. Lecture 23: The Evolution of Language: Meaning to Form How was proto­world developed?  Proto­World is the very first language  Currently we had a community that had a large array of calls that were linked to  mental concepts  With so many different words, there needs to be a way to organize it in your  brain, or it will take you forever to try and determine what someone is trying to  say to you, as you search your brain for that word. This would be a Retrieval  Problem.  Our Retrieval System solves that problem, by mentally categorizing the words in  your lexicon by a process analogous to alphabetization. They are organized  based on phonemes, which allows us to quickly retrieve ideas.


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