Language Evolution: An NCT and Conlang Framework

Author Information

Swathi Sivakumar Menon,
National Institute of Technology, Trichy, India 

Vinod Balakrishnan,
National Institute of Technology, Trichy, India 

DOI: 10.47298/cala2022.7-4
The GLOCAL Proceedings:  The GLOCAL Conference in Asia 2022

Abstract

Decades of scholarly work have displaced previously accepted assumptions of the separation of the cognitive and the cultural as two separate entities. Notably, interventions of scholars such as Bouchard, Arbib, and Odling-Smee, have effectively positioned this older and more archaic thinking.

In this paper, we posit that the propensity for constructivism in human languages has not been sufficiently studied. To this end, we propose Niche Construction Theory, a framework with which to address this gap. We also juxtapose natlangs (natural languages) with conlangs (constructed languages) in order to clarify the effectiveness of each. To facilitate this discussion, we propose the following points: Conlang origins are well-known, the study of conlangs has tangible evidence of manipulation of language elements, and the study of conlangs can further our understanding of natlangs.

We draw on multiple fields to effect this anthropological study. Our literature in this paper has invited our use of Bouchard’s concept of offline base systems (OBS) to respond to questions of the characteristics and mechanics of language vis-à-vis ethnological work. For this, we turn to issues of embodiment, to then extend this to other consequences of and motives for developing conlangs and hence language evolution, such as language disabilities and impairments, a field which is still in its infancy. A focus on language construction using conlangs to test OBS promises another avenue to explore language evolution.


Keywords: Conlangs, language evolution, natlangs, niche construction theory, OBS, linguistic anthropology


References

Arbib, M. (2006). Aphasia, Apraxia and the Evolution of the Language-Ready Brain. Aphasiology, 9(September): 1125–1155. https://doi.org/10.1080/02687030600741683.
Arbib, M. A. (2005). From Monkey-like Action Recognition to Human Language: An Evolutionary Framework for Neurolinguistics. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2(April): 105–124. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0140525x05000038.
Arbib, M. A. (2010). Adam’s Tongue: How Humans Made Language, How Language Made Humans (Review). Language, 2: 431–435. https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.0.0210.
Arbib, M. A. (2012). How the Brain Got Language. Oxford University Press.
Arbib, M. A. (2020). How the Brain Got Language – Towards a New Road Map. John Benjamins Publishing Company.
Ardila, A. (2015). A Proposed Neurological Interpretation of Language Evolution. Behavioural Neurology, 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1155/2015/872487.
Bickerton, D. (2009). Adam’s Tongue: How Humans Made Language, How Language Made Humans. Hill and Wang.
Bickerton, D. (2018). Language and Species. University of Chicago Press.
Blanke, D. (2009). Causes of the Relative Success of Esperanto. Language Problems and Language Planning, 3(September): 251–66. https://doi.org/10.1075/lplp.33.3.04bla.
Blasi, D. E., Moran, S., Moisik, S. R., Widmer, P., Dediu, D., and Bickel, B. (2019). Human Sound Systems are Shaped by Post-Neolithic Changes in Bite Configuration. Science, 6432(March): eaav3218. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.aav3218
Blasi, D. E., Wichmann, S., Hammarström, H., Stadler, P. F. and Christiansen, M. H. (2016). Sound–Meaning Association Biases Evidenced across Thousands of Languages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 39(September): 10818–10823. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1605782113.
Bouchard, D. (2013). The Nature and Origin of Language. Oxford University Press.
Bratman, D. (2016). Philology and Language Studies: Invented Languages. Tolkien Studies, 1: 290–292. https://doi.org/10.1353/tks.2016.0027.
Cheyne, R. (2008). Created Languages in Science Fiction. Science Fiction Studies, 35(3): 386–403. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25475175.
Chomsky, N. and Morris Halle (eds). (1968). The Sound Pattern of English. Harper and Row. http://web.mit.edu/morrishalle/pubworks/papers/1968_Chomsky_Halle_The_Sound_Pattern_of_English.pdf.
Christiansen, M. H. and Chater, N. (2008). Language as Shaped by the Brain. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 5(October): 489–509. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0140525x08004998.
Christiansen, M. H. and Simon Kirby. (2003). Language Evolution: Consensus and Controversies. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(July): 300–307. https://doi.org/10.1016/s1364-6613(03)00136-0.
Code, C. (2011). Nonfluent Aphasia and the Evolution of Proto-Language. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 2(March): 136–144. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneuroling.2009.12.007.
Deacon, T. W. (2007). The Evolution of Language Systems in the Human Brain. In Evolution of Nervous Systems (pp. 529–547). Elsevier. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/b0-12-370878-8/00020-3.
Deacon, T. W. (2017). Language Evolution and Neuromechanisms. In A Companion to Cognitive Science  (pp. 212–225). Blackwell Publishing Ltd. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9781405164535.ch13.
Dunbar, R. (1998). Theory of Mind and the Evolution of Language. Approaches to the Evolution of Language, January, 92–110. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/235356868_Theory_of_mind_and_the_evolution_of_language.
Eco, U. (1997). The Search for the Perfect Language (The Making of Europe). Wiley-Blackwell.
Engineering, Berkeley. (2014). Andy Dong: How We Design. Taken from YouTube. April 28, 2014. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgK8RT0TUy0.
Evans, N. (2013). Language Diversity as a Tool for Understanding Cultural Evolution. In P. J. Richerson and M. H. Christiansen (Eds.) Cultural Evolution: Society, Technology, Language, and Religion (pp. 233–268). MIT Press.
Fitch, W. T. (2017). Empirical Approaches to the Study of Language Evolution. Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 1(February): 3–33. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-017-1236-5.
Gilman, G. (2012). The Languages of the Fantastic. In the Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature (pp. 134–146). Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/ccol9780521429597.013.
Giudice, A. D. (2012). The Emergence of Duality of Patterning through Iterated Learning: Precursors to Phonology in a Visual Lexicon. Language and Cognition, 4(December): 381–418. https://doi.org/10.1515/langcog-2012-0020.
Gleason, J. B. and Nan Bernstein Ratner. (2016). The Development of Language (9th ed). Pearson.
Gobbo, F. (2005). The Digital Way to Spread Conlangs. Language at Work: Language Learning, Discourse and Translation Studies in Internet, 1: 45–53. https://books.google.co.in/books?hl=enandlr=andid=R7YIbW0_iSsCandoi=fndandpg=PA45andots=5dseD6MLoUandsig=gZ866JhBsUQc7UrPaLjiz9Q_cBgandredir_esc=y#v=onepageandqandf=false.
Gobbo, F. (2011). The Case of Correlatives: A Comparison between Natural and Planned Languages. Journal of Universal Language, 2(September): 45–79. https://doi.org/10.22425/jul.2011.12.2.45.
Gobbo, F. (2012). Alan Turing Creator of Artificial Languages. Koj Philosophy and Artificial Languages, 3(2): 181-194.
Griffiths, T. L. and Kalish, M. L. (2007). Language Evolution by Iterated Learning with Bwithian Agents. Cognitive Science, 3(May): 441–480. https://doi.org/10.1080/15326900701326576.
Hauser, M. D., Chomsky, N. and Fitch, W. T. (2002). The Faculty of Language: What is it, Who has it, and How did it Evolve? Science, 5598(November): 1569–1579. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.298.5598.1569.
Iriki, A. and Taoka, M. (2012). Triadic (Ecological, Neural, Cognitive) Niche Construction: A Scenario of Human Brain Evolution Extrapolating Tool Use and Language from the Control of Reaching Actions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 1585(January): 10–23.
https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2011.0190
Jablonka, E. and Lamb, M. J. (2005). Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life. MIT Press.
Kanero, J. (2014). The Gesture Theory of Language Origins: Current Issues and Beyond. In the Past, Present and Future of Language Evolution Research, 1–5. Kyoto: Evolang 9 Organizing Committee. http://kyoto.evolang.org/.
Kendal, J., Tehrani, J. J. and Odling-Smee, J. (2011). Human Niche Construction in Interdisciplinary Focus. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 1566(March): 785–792. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2010.0306
Kirby, S., Cornish, H. and Smith, K.. (2008). Cumulative Cultural Evolution in the Laboratory: An Experimental Approach to the Origins of Structure in Human Language. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 31(July): 10681–10686. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0707835105
Kirby, S. Tom Griffiths, and Kenny Smith. (2014). Iterated Learning and the Evolution of Language. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, October, 108–114. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.conb.2014.07.014
Kirby, S. and Hurford, J., R. (2002). The Emergence of Linguistic Structure: An Overview of the Iterated Learning Model. In Simulating the Evolution of Language (pp. 121–147). Springer London. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4471-0663-0_6.
Knowlson, J. (1975). Universal Language Schemes in England and France 1600–1800. University of Toronto Press: Scholarly Publishing.
Laland, K. N., and Sterelny, K. (2006). Perspective: Seven Reasons (Not) to Neglect Niche Construction. Evolution, 9(September): 1751–1762. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0014-3820.2006.tb00520.x
Lee, J. Y. and Man, Grace (2017). Language Recovery in Aphasia Following Implicit Structural Priming Training: A Case Study. Aphasiology, 12(March): 1441–1458. https://doi.org/10.1080/02687038.2017.1306638
Lewontin, R. C. (1983). Gene, Organism and Environment. In D. S. Bendall (Ed.) Evolution from Molecules to Men (pp. 273–285). Cambridge University Press.
Libert, A. R. (2010). Comparing Comparatives in Artificial Languages / Komparado de Komparativoj En Artefaritaj Lingvoj. In Koj. Philosophy and Artificial Languages, February, No. 1: Interlinguistics and Philosophy of Artificial Languages / Interlingvistiko kaj Filozofio de Artefaritaj Lingvoj. https://doi.org/10.13130/2037-4550/487
Libert, A., R. (2018). Artificial Languages. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Linguistics, June. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780199384655.013.11.
Libert, A., R. and Moskovsky, C. (2015). Terms for Bodies of Water in a Posteriori and Mixed Artificial Languages. Journal of Universal Language, 2(June): 27–62.
https://doi.org/10.22425/jul.2015.16.2.27
Locke, J., L. (2009). Why we Talk: The Evolutionary Origins of Language (Review). Language, 3: 710–713. https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.0.0148
Majid, A., Roberts, S., G., Cilissen, L., Emmorey, K., Nicodemus, B., O’Grady, L. Woll, B. et al. (2018). Differential Coding of Perception in the World’s Languages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 45(November): 11369–11376. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1720419115
Marcus, G. and Rabagliati, H. (2006). What Developmental Disorders Can Tell Us about the Nature and Origins of Language. Nature Neuroscience, 10(October): 1226–1229.
https://doi.org/10.1038/nn1766
McCrohon, L., Fujimura, T., Okanoya, K., Fujita, K., Suzuki, R., Martin, R. and Yusa, N. (Eds.) (2012). Five Approaches to Language Evolution. Proceedings of the Workshops of the 9th International Conference on the Evolution of Language. Kyoto: Evolang 9 Organizing Committee. http://kyoto.evolang.org/
Meyers, W., E. (1980). Aliens and Linguists: Language Study and Science Fiction (South Atlantic Modern Language Association Award Study). University of Georgia Press.
Odling-Smee, F., J., Laland, K., N. and Feldman, M., W. (2013). Niche Construction – The Neglected Process in Evolution (S. A. Levin and H. S. Horn Eds.). Princeton University Press.
Peterson, D., J. (2015). The Art of Language Invention: From Horse-Lords to Dark Elves, the Words behind World-Building. New York: Penguin Books.
Piaget, J. (1999) (1954). The Construction of Reality in the Child. Psychology Press. https://doi.org/10.1037/11168-000
Pinker, S. (1995). The Language Instinct. Penguin UK.
Pinker, S. and Jackendoff, Ray. (2005). The Faculty of Language: What’s Special about It? Cognition, 2(March): 201–236. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2004.08.004
Pinker, S. and Bloom, P. (2013). Natural Language and Natural Selection Ure. In S. Pinker (Ed.), Language, Cognition, and Human Nature (pp. 110–159). Oxford University Press.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199328741.001.0001
Pulvermüller, F. (2018). The Case of CAUSE: Neurobiological Mechanisms for Grounding an Abstract Concept. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 1752(June): 20170129. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2017.0129
Rahul, D., R. and Ponniah, R., J. (2021). The Modularity of Dyslexia. Pediatrics and Neonatology, March. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pedneo.2021.03.001
Reali, F. and Griffiths, T., L. (2009). The Evolution of Frequency Distributions: Relating Regularization to Inductive Biases through Iterated Learning. Cognition, 3(June): 317–328.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2009.02.012
Rogalsky, C., Raphel, K., Tomkovicz, V., O’Grady, L., Damasio, H., Bellugi, U. and Hickok, G. (2013). Neural Basis of Action Understanding: Evidence from Sign Language Aphasia. Aphasiology, 9(September): 1147–1158. https://doi.org/10.1080/02687038.2013.812779
Sanders, N. (2016). Constructed Languages in the Classroom. Language, 3: e192–204. https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.2016.0055
Sanders, N. and Christine Schreyer. (2020). The Interdisciplinarity of Conlangs. In Language Invention in Linguistics Pedagogy (pp. 169–185). Oxford University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780198829874.003.0011
Scott-Phillips, T. C., Laland, K., N., Shuker, D., M., Dickins, T., E. and West, S., A. (2014). The Niche Construction Perspective: A Critical Appraisal. Evolution, 5(January): 1231–1243. https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.12332
Stockert, A., Kümmerer, D. and Saur, D. (2015). Insights into Early Language Recovery: From Basic Principles to Practical Applications. Aphasiology, 5(December): 517–541. https://doi.org/10.1080/02687038.2015.1119796
Tomasello, M. (2019). Becoming Human. Harvard University Press. https://doi.org/10.4159/9780674988651
Tomasello, M., Carpenter, M., Call, J., Behne, T. and Moll, H. (2005). Understanding and Sharing Intentions: The Origins of Cultural Cognition. Behavioral and Brain Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X05000129.
Wahlgren, Y. (2004). Klingon as Linguistic Capital: A Sociologic Study of Nineteen Advanced Klingonists. BA Thesis. Lund University, Sweden. http://klingon.wiki/pub/Main/Download/KlingonAsLinguisticCapital.pdf
Wharton, T. (2009). Review of Dessalles: Why We Talk: The Evolutionary Origins of Language. Interaction Studies, 1(March): 101–105. https://doi.org/10.1075/is.10.1.05wha
Wyse, T. (2019). To What Extent is the Constructed Language Klingon Similar to Natural Languages: an InvAntigation into Nominal and Verbal Morphology (Undergraduate thesis). University of Sussex, UK. http://klingon.wiki/pub/Main/Download/Tara_Wyse_Dissertation.pdf
Yaguello, M. (1991). Lunatic Lovers of Language. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.



Full CALA 2022 Proceedings book