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The Origin of Words: A Psychophysical Hypothesis

Harnad, Stevan, (1996) The Origin of Words: A Psychophysical Hypothesis Velichkovsky, B. and Rumbaugh, D. (eds.) In Communicating Meaning: Evolution and Development of Language. Erlbaum., pp. 27-44.

Record type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


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.

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Published date: 1996
Additional Information: Address: New Jersey
Venue - Dates: Communicating Meaning: Evolution and Development of Language, 1996-01-01
Organisations: Web & Internet Science


Local EPrints ID: 252901
PURE UUID: 2fa7115e-c843-4449-bcfa-33ad6ad9e7c8

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Date deposited: 30 Mar 2000
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 10:00

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Author: Stevan Harnad
Editor: B. Velichkovsky
Editor: D. Rumbaugh

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