Semantic structure and the consequences of complexity
McFall, Joe Douglas
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Many linguists advocate the existence of an innate neurobiological, genetically encoded module for processing grammatical structure. This conclusion is reached by assuming such a structure to be the only possible explanation for the apparent high rate of language acquisition in an environment of impoverished linguistic input during development, the existence of universal linguistic features, and the infinitely productive, recursive nature of syntax (i.e., digital infinity). This paper will explore the evidence for which such a biological module is considered an explanatory logical necessity, and attempt to offer a possible alternate explanation for the same evidence that does not rely on an assumed genetically-encoded module. It is suggested that an evolutionary model of language supports a more parsimonious alternate explanation for universal features and the recursive nature of syntax, and as such is preferable to the nativist position.