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T-61.186 Special course on language technology

Course material



September 22

Lecture notes about the basics of evolutionary theory (in rtf format).

The article by Amy Perfors, Simulated evolution of language: a review of the field, will be read by all and discussed in the next session on Sept 29.

September 29

Session 2 notes in rtf format.

The simulation software to be used can be found on Paul Vogt's page. Documentation, including a rough guide, is included in the zipped software package. See also the publication list at the end of the page; the articles contain useful (perhaps necessary) information about the theoretical background as well as the practicalities of using the software. You might want to start from this pdf document, which is a general overview about both theory and practise. A companion article describing some results is here.

November 17

Read Steven Pinker's article Language as an adaptation to the cognitive niche (originally published in Christensen & Kirby [eds.] 2003, Language evolution. New York: Oxford University Press), and try to find the core of his argument. Also consider the following points that concern all of the articles to be studied during the next three sessions:

  • Nature vs. nurture: is the author a nativist or an antinativist or something in between? What is the role of culture in the author's theory?
  • Evolutionary processes: Is language as a whole a neutral spandrel or an adaptation?
    • If a spandrel: a byproduct of what? Could some of the characteristics of language be adaptations?
    • If an adaptation: Is it an exaptation of other cognitive abilities or the product of a gradual accumulation of small adaptations, or is it the product of a sudden macromutation? Could some of the characteristics of language be spandrels?
  • Is the language faculty (as a whole or in part) shared with several other branches of the phylogenetic tree, shared only with (some) other primates, or unique to H. sapiens?

November 24

Read the article by Jeffrey Elman and consider the same questions as with Pinker's article.

Optional reading regarding Pinker for those who are interested:

Hauser M.D., Chomsky N. & Fitch T. 2002. The faculty of language: what is it, who has it, and how did it evolve? Science 298: 1569-1579.
Pinker S. & Jackendoff R. (in press) What's special about the human language faculty? Cognition (a commentary on Hauser, Chomsky & Fitch 2002)

1 December 2004

Read the article "Coevolution of human consciousness and language" by Michael Arbib. Consider the viability of his hypotheses and try to find their position relative to the articles discussed earlier. Additional discussion on the topic can be found at the Interdisciplines website.

15 December

Seeds for the closing discussion: find an interesting point or tidbit, related to language evolution, in a journal or other publication of your choosing. Nothing fancy, just a little bit of something.

More information

For more information, please contact Kari Kanto.
Return to the course main page

Tilaa osoite t61186@cis.hut.fi

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Wednesday, 01-Dec-2004 19:56:06 EET