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Symbol Grounding and the Origin of Language: From Show to Tell

Blondin-Massé, Alexandre, Harnad, Stevan and St-Louis, Bernard (2013) Symbol Grounding and the Origin of Language: From Show to Tell In, Lefebvre, Claire, Cohen, Henri and Comrie, Bernard (eds.) New Perspectives on the Origins of Language. Benjamin

Record type: Book Section


Organisms’ adaptive success depends on being able to do the right thing with the right kind of thing. This is categorization. Most species can learn categories (1) by direct experience (“induction”). Only human beings can learn categories (2) by word of mouth (“instruction”). Artificial-life simulations have shown the evolutionary advantage of instruction over induction and human electrophysiology experiments have shown that these two radically different ways of acquiring categories still share some common features in our brains today. Graph-theoretic analyses reveal that dictionaries consist of a core of more concrete words that are learned earlier, by direct experience (induction); the meanings of the rest of the dictionary can be learned by definition (instruction) alone, by combining the inductively grounded core words into subject/predicate propositions with truth values. We conjecture that language began when attempts to communicate through miming became conventionalized into arbitrary sequences of shared, increasingly arbitrary category names that made it possible for members of our species to transmit new categories to one another by defining and describing them via propositions (instruction).

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Published date: 2013
Keywords: language, evolution, Darwin, categorization, propositions, dictionaries, symbol grounding, category learning, induction, instruction, definition, description, predication
Organisations: Electronics & Computer Science


Local EPrints ID: 271438
PURE UUID: 2109c68f-4f0b-43a3-8d70-a205fb623268

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Date deposited: 22 Jul 2010 21:09
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 06:42

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Author: Alexandre Blondin-Massé
Author: Stevan Harnad
Author: Bernard St-Louis
Editor: Claire Lefebvre
Editor: Henri Cohen
Editor: Bernard Comrie

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