Biology of Language

Cedric Boeckx

in Linguistics

ISBN: 9780199772810
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
Biology of Language

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  • Linguistics
  • Anthropological Linguistics
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Although they both focus on issues that have deep roots in human thought, linguistics and biology are relatively young scientific disciplines. The concern for the biological foundations of the human language faculty was elevated to the level of a scientific discipline (now often called “biolinguistics”) only with the advent of generative grammar in the mid-20th century, although since then investigation into the biological nature of language has freed itself from the specific technical apparatus used in generative grammar. With its rejection of behaviorism, generative grammar (and in particular Noam Chomsky) set the stage for the explicit investigation of the biological foundations of language: its neural underpinnings (Neurolinguistics), its evolutionary history (evolution of language), and its development in the individual (language acquisition and psycholinguistics). Because of the very nature of its task, biolinguistics (here used in a theory-neutral fashion as a cover term for the scientific search for the biological foundations of language) is a supremely interdisciplinary enterprise, with a vast amount of material from a great many disciplines bearing on central issues in this field. Because language is such a vast and complex object of study, it is traditionally divided into areas or component parts such as syntax, semantics, morphology, phonology, and so on. Each of these subdisciplines partakes in biolinguistics. As such, material relevant to biolinguistics can be found in traditional bibliographic resources. This article discusses only those works and resources that are explicitly focused on the biological foundations of the language faculty. With recent advances on genetics, biological anthropology, comparative ethology, and theoretical linguistics, the field of biolinguistics is enjoying a renaissance after two or three decades in the background. As a result, this list of works has a more tentative character than do traditional disciplines in linguistics.

Article.  4724 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Anthropological Linguistics ; Language Families ; Psycholinguistics ; Sociolinguistics

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