Commentary in:Biological Evolution: More than a metaphor for grammar change
Edited by Maria Rita Manzini
[Evolutionary Linguistic Theory 3:1] 2021
► pp. 56–72
On evolution, change, and beyond
Some comments on Hubert Haider’s paper “Grammar change: A case of Darwinian cognitive evolution”
This paper discusses Hubert Haider’s target-article “Grammar change: A case of Darwinian cognitive evolution”. I show why such an article is fascinating (and unconventional), although I will mainly concentrate on several disagreements with Haider and will suggest alternative views to those contended by this scholar. My discussion will highlight five main issues: (1) Haider assumes a purely Neo-Darwinian (i.e. genocentric) view of evolution and inheritance, lacking a more pluralistic approach; (2) Haider rejects the idea of language as a biological phenomenon, while at the same time he seems to assume several characteristics related to a biologically seated trait; (3) as opposed to Haider’s suggestion, the computational system does not need to be language-specific; (4) Haider’s divide between the procedural and declarative components of grammar is perhaps too strict regarding (grammatical) change; and (5) Haider considers that there is no scientific way of deciding the question of language origins and evolution and that complex grammars are too recent. However, I show that a language-like computational power (and perhaps complex grammars) already existed many thousands of years ago.
Keywords: Hubert Haider, grammatical change, evolution, computational system, computational complexity
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