Universal Grammar and Biological Variation: An EvoDevo Agenda for Comparative Biolinguistics.

Bibliographic Collection: 
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Benítez-Burraco, Antonio; Boeckx, Cedric
Year of Publication: 2014
Journal: Biol Theory
Volume: 9
Issue: 2
Pagination: 122-134
Date Published: 2014
Publication Language: ENG
ISSN: 1555-5542

Recent advances in genetics and neurobiology have greatly increased the degree of variation that one finds in what is taken to provide the biological foundations of our species-specific linguistic capacities. In particular, this variation seems to cast doubt on the purportedly homogeneous nature of the language faculty traditionally captured by the concept of "Universal Grammar." In this article we discuss what this new source of diversity reveals about the biological reality underlying Universal Grammar. Our discussion leads us to support (1) certain hypotheses advanced in evolutionary developmental biology that argue for the existence of robust biological mechanisms capable of canalizing variation at different levels, and (2) a bottom-up perspective on comparative cognition. We conclude by sketching future directions for what we call "comparative biolinguistics," specifying which experimental directions may help us succeed in this new research avenue.

DOI: 10.1007/s13752-014-0164-0
Alternate Journal: Biol Theory