From Sensorimotor Categories and Pantomime to Grounded Symbols and Propositions

Harnad, Stevan (2011) From Sensorimotor Categories and Pantomime to Grounded Symbols and Propositions. In, Tallerman, Maggie and Gibson, Kathleen (eds.) Handbook of Language Evolution. , Oxford University Press.


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The adaptive success of organisms depends on being able to do the right thing with the right kind of thing. This is categorization. Most species can learn categories by direct experience (induction). Only human beings can acquire categories by word of mouth (instruction). Artificial-life simulations show the evolutionary advantage of instruction over induction; human electrophysiology experiments show that the two ways of acquiring categories still share some common features; and graph-theoretic analyses show that dictionaries consist of a core of more concrete words that are learned earlier, from direct experience, and the meanings of the rest of the dictionary can be learned from definition alone, by combining the core words into subject/predicate propositions with truth values. Language began when purposive miming became conventionalized into arbitrary sequences of shared category names describing and defining new categories via propositions.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: language, evolution, categorization, propositions, symbol grounding, induction, instruction, definition
Divisions : Faculty of Physical Sciences and Engineering > Electronics and Computer Science
ePrint ID: 271439
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
Date Deposited: 22 Jul 2010 21:16
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 14:18
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