The Origin of Words: A Psychophysical Hypothesis.
Velichkovsky, B. and Rumbaugh, D. (eds.)
Communicating Meaning: Evolution and Development of Language
It is hypothesized that words originated as the names of perceptual categories and that two forms of representation underlying perceptual categorization -- iconic and categorical representations -- served to ground a third, symbolic, form of representation. The third form of representation made it possible to name and describe our environment, chiefly in terms of categories, their memberships, and their invariant features. Symbolic representations can be shared because they are intertranslatable. Both categorization and translation are approximate rather than exact, but the approximation can be made as close as we wish. This is the central property of that universal mechanism for sharing descriptions that we call natural language.
Actions (login required)