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