The faculty of language: what is it, who has it, and how did it evolve?

Bibliographic Collection: 
MOCA Reference, APE
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Hauser, M. D.; Chomsky, N.; Fitch, W. T.
Year of Publication: 2002
Journal: Science
Volume: 298
Issue: 5598
Pagination: 1569-79
Date Published: 11/2002
Publication Language: eng
ISSN: 1095-9203
Keywords: Animal communication, Animals, Biological Evolution, Concept Formation, Humans, Imitative Behavior, Language, Learning, Linguistics, Mathematics, Nervous System Physiological Phenomena, Speech, Vocalization, Animal

We argue that an understanding of the faculty of language requires substantial interdisciplinary cooperation. We suggest how current developments in linguistics can be profitably wedded to work in evolutionary biology, anthropology, psychology, and neuroscience. We submit that a distinction should be made between the faculty of language in the broad sense (FLB) and in the narrow sense (FLN). FLB includes a sensory-motor system, a conceptual-intentional system, and the computational mechanisms for recursion, providing the capacity to generate an infinite range of expressions from a finite set of elements. We hypothesize that FLN only includes recursion and is the only uniquely human component of the faculty of language. We further argue that FLN may have evolved for reasons other than language, hence comparative studies might look for evidence of such computations outside of the domain of communication (for example, number, navigation, and social relations).

DOI: 10.1126/science.298.5598.1569
Alternate Journal: Science