Article

From sensorimotor categories and pantomime to grounded symbols and propositions

Stevan Harnad

in The Oxford Handbook of Language Evolution

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199541119
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199541119.013.0042

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

 From sensorimotor categories and pantomime to grounded symbols and propositions

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The adaptive success of organisms depends on the categorization that is the ability to do the right thing with the right kind of thing. Most species can learn categories by direct experience (induction) and only human beings can acquire categories by word of mouth (instruction). Language began when purposive miming became conventionalized into arbitrary sequences of shared category names describing and defining new categories via propositions. An individual must be able to distinguish the members from the non-members in order to categorize correctly. The feature detector for some categories is inborn. Most categories, however, have to be learned through trial and error during the lifetime of the organism. The artificial-life simulations have showed that simple virtual creatures in virtual worlds, which must learn to do the right thing with the right kind of thing in order to survive and reproduce, are able to categorize through trial-and-error experience. It can be done with the help of neural nets that are able to learn to detect the features, which reliably distinguish one category from another.

Keywords: induction; language; artificial-life simulations; categorization; instruction

Article.  2560 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Language Evolution

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