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Co-Auteur(s): Lluís BARCELÓ-COBLIJN (Universitat de les Illes Balears, Spain) Cedric BOECKX (ICREA/Universitat de Barcelona, Spain)

Understanding language evolution implies understanding evolution

Abstract/Résumé: Any adequate theory on language evolution should take into account recent advances in evolutionary theory. Until now, most research has focused on the communicative function of language, basing their explanations on fitness and natural selection. However, we think that many aspects of language evolution cannot be explained by natural selection only. As is the case with the analysis of the evolution of any organism or trait, language evolution should also take into account, at least, the following factors: mutations, migrations, genetic drift, hybridization, and possible modifications of the genome caused by retrovirus transposable elements, and the like. In addition, developmental tendencies are an important factor that has been recognized as crucial in the evolutionary theory. We pursue a more pluralist theory of language evolution along these lines and examine how the inclusion of the factors cited above is going to affect any theoretical approach to language evolution, and particularly, how these other factors relativize the role of natural selection on the emergence of language.