Re: teleology and language

From: Bill Spight (
Date: Tue Apr 30 2002 - 19:37:38 BST

  • Next message: Wade Smith: "Re: teleology and language"

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    From: Bill Spight <>
    Subject: Re: teleology and language
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    Dear Douglas,

    > > Our current languages are the result of thousands of years of
    > > evolution and are actually quite versatile and diverse
    > Unless the discipline of linguistics has changed very much since I went to
    > school, that statement must be rejected as entirely contrary to what we know
    > about human language. The early linguists, prior to the mid-20th century,
    > expected to find that illiterate indigenous people in Africa, New Guinea,
    > and the high arctic spoke inferior languages without the expressive
    > capabilities of modern languages used by literate people. But that proved
    > not the be the case. No languages primitive enough to be considered
    > inferior to English or Russian have ever been found.

    There is a common notion of evolution that is confused with development.
    In that sense, languages have not, for millenia in any event, evolved
    from more primitive to more complex.

    However, the biological and memetic meanings of evolution do not involve
    development. So the fact that languages have not, on the whole become
    more complex, as far as we know, does not mean that they have not

    > There are various interpretations of this empirical fact, and some people
    > remain convinced that language does evolve, but I don't agree. Brains
    > evolve. Language doesn't.

    There are three components to evolution: replication, variation, and
    selection. Are languages replicated? Yes. Do they vary over time? Yes.
    Are they, or their components, selected? Yes. Languages evolve.



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