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Symbol grounding and the origin of language

Harnad, Stevan (2002) Symbol grounding and the origin of language s.n.

Record type: Monograph (Project Report)


What language allows us to do is to "steal" categories quickly and effortlessly through hearsay instead of having to earn them the hard way, through risky and time-consuming sensorimotor "toil" (trial-and-error learning, guided by corrective feedback from the consequences of miscategorisation). To make such linguistic "theft" possible, however, some, at least, of the denoting symbols of language must first be grounded in categories that have been earned through sensorimotor toil (or else in categories that have already been "prepared" for us through Darwinian theft by the genes of our ancestors); it cannot be linguistic theft all the way down. The symbols that denote categories must be grounded in the capacity to sort, label and interact with the proximal sensorimotor projections of their distal category-members in a way that coheres systematically with their semantic interpretations, both for individual symbols, and for symbols strung together to express truth-value-bearing propositions.

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Published date: 2002
Organisations: Web & Internet Science


Local EPrints ID: 256471
PURE UUID: 5b077662-25ac-455b-b23c-f5607f3585d0

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Date deposited: 02 Apr 2002
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 09:46

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Author: Stevan Harnad

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