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Reconciling linguistic theories on comparative variation with an evolutionarily plausible language faculty

Kleanthes K. Grohmann; Evelina Leivada

This work aims to reconcile the atomic objects of study typically assumed within
comparative variation studies with an evolutionarily plausible faculty of language.
In the process, we formulate and address the incompatibility problem, the
observation that studying comparative (micro)variation has progressively led to an
evolutionarily implausible Universal Grammar. We identify a solution to this problem
through arguing in favour of a so-called emergentist approach to some linguistic
primitives. We then address the granularity mismatch problem and argue on the
basis of this emergentist approach firstly, that linguistic and neurocognitive
studies of language may be brought to the same level of granularity, and secondly, that
specific insights from comparative variation can inform an evolutionarily plausible
approach to human language.

 

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