"The Emergence of Language and Culture out of the Complexity of Hominid Existence"
The Emergence of Language and Culture out of the Complexity of Hominid Existence Robert K. Logan - Dept. of Physics - University of Toronto Abstract One of the difficulties in understanding the origin of language is the lack of empirical data. The thesis that will be developed in this paper is that historic data relating to the evolution of language after the advent of speech and beginning with the emergence of writing can shed light on the origin and evolution of human language. In The Sixth Language (Logan, Toronto: Stoddart, 2000a) language is assumed to be both a medium of communication and an informatics tool to show that speech, writing, math, science, computing and the Internet form an evolutionary chain of languages. Each new form of language emerged as a bifurcation and a new level of order to deal with the chaos and information overload that the previous forms of language could not handle. Exploiting this approach the origins of speech and the human mind are shown to have emerged simultaneously as the bifurcation from percepts to concepts and a response to the chaos associated with the information overload that resulted from the increased complexity in hominid life. Our ancestors developed toolmaking, controlled fire, and hence, developed manual praxic articulation. They lived in larger social groups which resulted in the development of social organization. And they engaged in large scale co-ordinated hunting which required mimetic communication. As a result of these developments their minds could no longer cope with the richness of life solely on the basis of its perceptual sensorium and as a result a new level of order emerged in the form of conceptualization and speech. Speech arose primarily as a way to control information and then was used as a tool for communication. Thought is not silent speech but rather speech is vocalized thought. The mechanism that allowed the transition from percept to concept was the emergence of speech. The words of spoken language are the actual medium or mechanism by which concepts are expressed or represented. Word are both metaphors and strange attractors uniting many perceptual experiences in terms of a single concept. Spoken language and abstract conceptual thinking emerged together at exactly the same point of time as a bifurcation from alingual communication skills and the concrete percept-based thinking of pre-lingual hominids. (Logan 2000b) The transition from percept-based thinking to concept-based thinking represented a major discontinuity in human thought. Language extended the brain which hitherto served as a percept processor into the human mind capable of conceptualization and planning (mind = brain + language). We use our dynamic systems model of the mind to understand the connections between technology, commerce, artistic expression, narrative and science and to generate what we have playfully called the Grand Unification Theory of Human Thought. Manual praxic articulation evolves into technology, social intelligence into commerce and mimetic communication into artistic expression. A synthesis of the Extended Mind model with the work of Christiansen (1994), Deacon (1997) and Donald (1991) is made showing an overlap of these four approaches in which a parallel is drawn respectively between conceptualization, sequential learning and processing, symbolic representation and mimetic culture as a pre-adaptations for spoken language. Christiansen's notion of treating language as an organism is generalized to the consideration of culture as an organism also with the result that a notion of Universal Culture emerges in parallel with the notion of Universal Grammar. References Christiansen, Morten. 1994. Infinite languages finite minds: Connectionism, learning and linguistic structure. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Centre for Cognitive Studies, University of Edinburgh UK. Deacon, T. W. 1997. The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of the Brain and Language. New York: W. W. Norton & Co. Donald, Merlin. 1991. The Origin of the Modern Mind. Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University Press. Logan, Robert K. 2000a. The Sixth Language: Learning a Living in the Internet Age. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing. Logan, Robert K. 2000b. The extended mind: understanding language and thought in terms of complexity and chaos theory. In Lance Strate (ed), 2000 Communication and Speech Annual Vol. 14.