Presentation on theme: "EUROPEAN SOCIETY FOR THE STUDY OF COGNITIVE SYSTEMS"— Presentation transcript:
1EUROPEAN SOCIETY FOR THE STUDY OF COGNITIVE SYSTEMS Robin AllottPresentations1. The Evolution/Machine:Reconsidering La Mettrie’s L'homme machineGenoa Italy 20082. The Ascent of IntelligenceGesture and Language : Mind and BodyGroningen The Netherlands 20073. The Stuff of ThoughtPinker: Language and the MindLinz Austria 2009choose pointer or just continue
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3MOTOR THEORY OF LANGUAGE, EVOLUTION AND FUNCTION BRAIN SPEECH AND INTELLIGENCE
4"Words are the natural evolutionary product of the functioning of the brain. The forms of individual words are not arbitrary but directly derived from and related to the meaning of the words.""Speech is the result of an evolutionary exaptation: the establishment in humans of a direct connection between the cortical motor control system and the articulatory apparatus""In the evolution of language, shapes or objects seen, sounds heard, and actions perceived or performed, generated neural motor programs which, on transfer to the vocal apparatus, produced words structurally correlated with the perceived shapes, objects, sounds and actions.""The motor program generating the word, an articulatory gesture, also generates an equivalent bodily gesture. Gesture mediates between word-structure and word-meaning. In the case of a different word in a different language for the same meaning, a similar final gesture is generated by a different intermediate trajectory associated with different speech-sound elements going to form the different word."
5The key aspect of the motor theory of language is that words, speech and language are the outcome of an exaptation of the motor control system, that is, a direct relation between aspects of the motor cortical system and the characteristic features of lexicon and syntax.
6Parallelisms of word and gesture (dual expressions of meaning) can be made overt by specific controlled mind/brain operations
7The sound [the word] is not “a directly imitative sign but indicates a quality which the sign and the object have in common sounds which partly independently and partly in comparison with others produce an impression which to the ear is similar to that which the object makes upon the mind.”Humboldt
8Animal names are derived from animal sounds The sound-structures of animal names can reverse the process and regenerate the animal sounds
9EUROPEAN SOCIETY FOR THE STUDY OF COGNITIVE SYSTEMS Genoa 2-4 July 2008ABSTRACTThe Evolution/Machine: Reconsidering La Mettrie’s L'homme machineRobin Allott
11In 1748 La Mettrie published, in Holland, L'homme machine , an extension of Descartes' automata concept from animals to man. The book was publicly burned and La Mettrie was forced to seek protection from Frederick the Great at Berlin, until his death in The following (condensed freely from the English translation) gives some idea of the argument in L’Homme Machine:
12“Let us conclude boldly that man is a machine “Let us conclude boldly that man is a machine. The human body is a watch, a large watch constructed with such skill and ingenuity. To be a machine, to feel, to think, to know how to distinguish good from bad, as well as blue from yellow, in a word, to be born with an intelligence and a sure moral instinct, and to be but an animal, are therefore characters which are no more contradictory, than to be an ape or a parrot and to be able to give oneself pleasure. In general, the form and the structure of the brains of quadrupeds are almost the same as those of the brain of man; the same shape, the same arrangement everywhere, man the one whose brain is largest, and more convoluted.”
13“The transition from animals to man is not violent, The springs of the human machine are such that all the vital, animal, natural, and automatic motions are carried on by their action. In a purely mechanical way the eyelids are lowered at the menace of a blow and the pupil contracts in broad daylight to save the retina, the pores of the skin close in winter so that the cold cannot penetrate to the interior of the blood.”
14Reconsidering L’homme machine in the light of advances in neuroscience and evolutionary biology What do we share with animals?What don’t we share with animals?How have we acquired the things we do not share with animals ?What part has language played?How did we acquire language ?How did human brain size and intelligence increase so rapidly and remarkably ?
15La Mettrie proposed that the human is 100% machine How much of a machine should we think we are now?
16There is little in the detail of what La Mettrie said which nowadays would be disputed. Research in molecular biology and in neuroscience every day is showing how wonderfully the “springs” of human and animal action function.As shown by the following examples of the essential machinery we share with animals (even, at the cell level, with yeast ! )
17These videos present, in real time, what Francis Crick called the central dogma of modern biology, how DNA makes proteinand also suggest how neurons change to respond to incoming information and to the cell environment
18DNA TRANSCRIPTION: The DNA strand (purple) is held in the cell nucleus by the polymerase complex (blue- grey), collects the complementary codons (yellow) and is read out into messenger RNA (yellow) [click on graphic}
19TRANSLATION: mRNA (yellow) emerges from the cell nucleus and is captured by a ribosome (blue), collects transfer RNA (green) with amino-acids attached (red tips) and exits as a protein (red) haemoglobin
21Dendrite(blue) spines growing in real time (recorded in 2006) Spines grow on the surface of the neuron, on the dendrites
22NEUROSCIENCEBrain Remodelling IIKandel Nobel Lecture December 2000The Molecular Biology of Memory Storage: A Dialog between Genes and SynapsesThe strategies used for storing memory are the same from mollusks to mammals. “There are no fundamental … differences between the nerve cells and synapses of humans and those of a snail, a worm or a fly.”“The biology of the mind has now captured the imagination of the scientific community”
23Science shows us how more profoundly we are machines Evolutionary theory suggests we are machines in a broader sense
24EVOLUTIONEvolutionary biology has introduced a completely new dimension – which La Mettrie no doubt might have welcomed as further demonstrating how the human is a machine.
25La Mettrie listed the easily visible aspects of the machine La Mettrie listed the easily visible aspects of the machine. Now we know and, in the illustrations can see, the working of the hidden machinery.Apart from the massive clearly mechanical aspect of the human being demonstrated , what else in the human is machine ?Evolution has brought with it behavioural machinery.
26The central feature of evolution is the genetic programming for maintenance of the species, programming male and female behaviour for reproduction.This has been most fully investigated in one of the standard experimental animals, the drosophila or fruit fly.
28Courtship is an innate sexually dimorphic behaviour that can be observed in naive animals without previous learning or experience, suggesting that the neural circuits that mediate this behaviour are developmentally programmed.In Drosophila, this involves a complex yet stereotyped array of dimorphic behaviours that are regulated by FruM, a male-specific form of the fruitless gene. The gene is expressed in about 2,000 neurons in the fly brain.[extracts from Greenspan R Courtship in drosophila Annu. Rev. Genet :205–32]
29A male fly can perform the entire courtship sequence even if raised in complete isolation from egg to adult and then presented with a female as its first encounter with another creature.
30This conjunction is planned by evolution This conjunction is planned by evolution. The same pattern of behaviour can be seen over a very wide range of species, including humans.Reproductive behaviour is built into the DNA, expressed through the genes and built into brain organisation of humans and other species in terms of specific male and female neural complexes.
31Crudely the evolutionary duty (or compulsion) of the drosophila is to produce more drosophilae. There is the same duty (or compulsion) for people to produce more people.Evolution requires the overwhelming genetic importance in the brain, body and behaviour of every animal of the drive and mechanisms for reproduction.
32Present-day much unconditional surrender to evolutionary drives ? The gorilla in the living room ?The perennial struggle against the blind animality of the evolutionary process[Usefully discussed by Schopenhauer in Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung Vol II Chap. XLIV. Trans. EFG Payne. Dover 1958]
33What else is machine besides the clearly biochemical machinery What else is machine besides the clearly biochemical machinery? What else do we share with animals?Feeling as part of the machine - I feel … hungry, thirsty pain, desire. The senses: tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing, touching. Emotions, guilt (Do not walk on the grass !)
34What made it possible for man not to be altogether a machine What made it possible for man not to be altogether a machine? To be a modifiable machine?How comes it that l’homme machine can now re-jig the machine? Can be a self-transforming machine ?Unexpected applications of the brain/machine: synthetic biology, on the point of creating life in the laboratory (Venter).
36A sensory-motor cortex 5 times larger than for the chimpanzee Speech and spoken language certainly (and writing) - but much elseMind Consciousness?Laughter Amazing bodily skills Music Clothes (perhaps the first nearly universal cosmetic)The (human) predictive (planning) power.The elaboration of mental simulation and imagery.
37Mind is the dynamic system manifesting in thought and action Consciousness as an idea is closer to feeling and degrees of feeling. Animals and all life may have varying degrees of consciousnessBut it is less certain whether any animals have mind as an originating, controlling and predictive system
38Understanding of the human mind and human consciousness has advanced surprisingly little since La Mettrie’s time (despite Darwin)
39The question remains how human beings advanced from shared mechanical animality to the achievements which have left other animals far behind.How to explain the emergence of the individual and social superstructure which humans have erected on the same physical base as the ape, the dog, the drosophila?
40LANGUAGELa Mettrie asked what was man before the invention of words and the knowledge of language.The contribution of language to the ascent of the human being is no novel discovery (Aristotle, Darwin and many others).How has language made us into the humans we are individually and in groups ?What did it do for the ascent of mind? How did it function to increase intelligence and power?
41Separate what language does: In the brain – Internally –In the human group – Externally –
43Role in ?creating mindcreating the selfcreating I and Youmaking possible prediction and the planning of actionstabilising understandingdiscriminating past present and future > timelabelling memory > historyanalysing and mirroring the external worldreshaping the brain - increasing intelligence
45Language operating at a distance - and writing at a further distance, in time as well as in space Family relationships made conscious by namingCommunication in the group and the stabilisation of groupsClassification of objectsAccumulation of knowledge and inventionA language as externalised mind ?
46Language distances us from the immediate reality - mirrors our world and allows us to operate in the mirrored world.Mind has offered the possibility of freedom from evolutionary drives, which otherwise make humans, like all animals, into evolutionary puppets
47Language is a system of words It is through words that language has changed human beings
48How could words do all these things? Because:.Words are not arbitrary.Words are not symbols.Words change the structure of the brain.Words increase the size and complexity of the brain.Words are integrated with and form part of the motor system of the brain.Words form a network in the brain, a network of linked interacting neurons.Words accumulate and integrate.Words allow a distance between immediate experience and the experiencing self.Words create the self in time and space
49.Words actively mirror the world .Words transmit experience from one person to another.Words change the other person’s mind and brain.Words can program action for the individual.Words can program the action of others.Words can program action for the group..Words can be an instrument for power of the group.Words can change the environment for individual selection.Words can change the environment for group selection.Words change fitness and so survival of individuals with bigger brains and greater effectiveness in the physical and cultural environment
50GESTURESWords have made humans into what they are nowBut where did the words come from:Words came from gestures.
51Where do the gestures come from? Gestures come from perception (visual, auditory and other sensation) of the world, of the human being’s own bodily experience - shapes, sounds, movements etc.
52But why humans using gestures ? For gestures the hands and arms must be free.Bipedalism freed the hands and arms and made possible and necessary changes in the motor processes of the brainWalking on two feet may not only have contributed to the emergence of gesture but also made possible refinements in control of the hands, manipulation, seen in advances in toolmaking and in many other manual skills
53The universality of gesture? Seeing gesture as at the origin of language (Condillac)Gesture manifests the relation between language and action. It was at the origin of language and is of central importance in the relation between motor articulation and the motor storage of the concepts and percepts from which individual words derive their meaning
54Was each gesture as arbitrary as traditional linguistics says that each word is? Clearly not.Gestures of all kinds were generated by imitation of actions, shapes and sounds. These were stored as motor programs before humans acquired speech.“The discovery of mirror neurons may provide a new, though still sketchy, neurobiological basis to account for the emergence of language” (Gallese)
56“Neuroanatomically, the step from genetically determined controlled vocal patterns is associated with the emergence of a direct connection between the motor cortex and the laryngeal motoneurons, a connection lacking in subhuman primates” (Jürgens, Uwe [German Primate Center, Göttingen]A computational model has been constructed which allows prediction of the fMRI images in the brain associated with individual words. (Mitchell et al. Science 30 May 2008)
57Cerebral reorganisation provided new direct connections between the motor cortex, the tongue and the larynx.There was a great increase in the innervation of the articulatory apparatus generally.Motor programs from gestural origins were transduced automatically into articulated words structured by the gestural programs.The meanings of words were automatically linked to the actions, sounds and shapes to which the gestures referred.
58The process by which words were formed was the inverse of the process by which gestures and sounds can be generated from existing word-forms - a reverse application of motor equivalence.On seeing some one hitting something, the action patterning was by motor equivalence converted into articulatory patterning to produce a speech-sound structure, a word, directly related to the action patterning seen.Similarly on hearing an animal sound, the typical sound of a cat, a hyena, a wasp or a wolf, the sound-patterning is transduced by motor equivalence to form a word whose structure is derived from the sound heard.
60Brains, and particularly human brains, have much increased in size and complexity in the course of evolution. The increase must have brought survival benefits. However intelligence is measured, greater size and complexity have moved in step with greater intelligence.The growth in human brain size and complexity can be related to and explained in terms of the acquisition and continuing growth in language and particularly rapid increase in the number of words acquired.Language in the group will account for an ever-larger segment of total cultural input to the brain and will also act as a powerful instrument in shaping the social system. A ratchet effect is established which goes to promote a persisting increase in brain-size. (Evo-Devo and the Baldwin Effect)
61EUROPEAN SOCIETY FOR THE STUDY OF COGNITIVE SYSTEMS 20-22 August 2007, Groningen, The NetherlandsABSTRACTASCENT OF INTELLIGENCEGesture and Language : Mind and BodyRobin Allott
62The acquisition of language was the turning-point for the evolutionary separation of humans from apes. From this flowed the ascent of human intelligence with the ratcheting up of human mental and cultural advanceas a result of interaction between individual variations in brain structure and development and continually advancing complexity of the social, technological and cultural environment (a manifestation of the Baldwin effect).
63Both body and brain were involved in the acquisition and advance of language, phylogenetically and ontogenetically. The relation between mind-state and body-state was manifested not only in the patterning of emotion (the James/Lange theory) but also in the selection of words (articulatory programs) to match patterns of perception, both of external objects and also innate attitudinal patterns, "mental" structures, which went to form both language syntax and motor syntax (cf. Karl Lashley, Kant).
64The key aspect of the motor theory of language is that words, speech and language are the outcome of an exaptation of the motor control system, that is, a direct relation between aspects of the motor cortical system and the characteristic features of lexicon and syntax.
65Progress in neuroscience, and particularly recent experimental research using fmri and other techniques, has provided material support for the motor basis of language.
66RECENT RESEARCH(1) “A larynx area in the human motor cortex” Brown Ngan Liotti Cerebral Cortex July A human evolutionary novelty perhaps related to emergence of voluntary control of vocalisation(2) “The organisation of behavioral repertoires in the motor cortex” Graziano M. Annu. Rev of Neurosci. 29.(2) "When Language Meets Action: The Neural Integration of Gesture and Speech.” 2006 Willems Ozyurek Hagoort Cereb. Cortex 2006 Dec 11 (Epub) fMRI evidence that speech and gesture share a high-level neural integration system.(3) "Speech and Gesture share the same communication system" 2006 Bernardis Gentilucci Neuropsychologia Experiment suggests that word and gesture are related at the levels of execution and processing with implications for the evolution of language.(4) “Comparison of the neural systems underlying speech and non-speech vocal utterances” 2000 Jurgens. Existence in humans (and not in other primates) of a direct connection between the motor cortex and the laryngeal motoneurons.
67OTHER RELEVANT MATERIAL (6) “Functional links between motor and language systems” 2005 Pulvermuller Hauk Nikulin Ilmoniemi Eur J Neurosci TMS experiment showing specific links between action and language systems during lexical processing.(8) “Complex movements evoked by microstimulation of precentral cortex.” 2002 Graziano Taylor Moore Neuron 34,(9) “The cortical control of movement revisited.” Graziano Taylor Moore Cooke Neuron 36, "One possibility is that the mechanisms for speech were built on a preexisting mechanism for motor control”.(7) “Origin of speech: The motor route” Holden 2004 Science 303: Abundant behavioral evidence for an intimate connection between language and motor abilities.
68MORE SPECULATIVE(5) “Hypoglossal canal and the origin of human vocal behavior” 1998 Kay Cartmill Balow PNAS The much larger canal in humans than in apes or australopithecus makes possible richer motor innervation of the tongue and so made possible language as a uniquely human ability.(10) FoxP2 gene 2001 Varga-Khadem et al. Nature Motor control and language implications.(11) “Language within our grasp” Rizzolatti, G. and M. Arbib. Trends in Neuroscience Mirror neurons make possible empathy and imitation and so provide a basis for the evolution of language.(12) EvoDevo(13) Baldwin effect
69FROM THE IMITATION OF SOUNDS SHAPES AND ACTIONS THE ORIGIN OF WORDSFROM THE IMITATION OF SOUNDS SHAPES AND ACTIONSTHEN TRANSDUCED INTO ARTICULATORY PROGRAMSBY MOTOR EQUIVALENCE
70Motor equivalence has been the central process in the origin and functioning of language and the acquisition of words.
73The sound [the word] is not “a directly imitative sign but indicates a quality which the sign and the object have in common sounds which partly independently and partly in comparison with others produce an impression which to the ear is similar to that which the object makes upon the mind.”Humboldt
74Parallelisms of word and gesture (dual expressions of meaning) can be made overt by specific controlled mind/brain operations
76Brain size and structure ? INTELLIGENCE ?Brain size and structure ?Baldwin effect ?EvoDevo ?
77BRAIN SIZEThe inescapable fact is that brains, and particularly human brains, have much increased in size in the course of evolution. The increase in size must have brought survival benefits and for humans it surely means that however intelligence is measured greater size has moved in step with greater intelligence - though at the individual level the correlation is not exact.
78BUT … all the day-to-day routines of bodily existence require very little neural mass. Ants, bees, mice, birds, dinosaurs, manage, or managed, very well, with small, or extremely small, brains (the ratio of brain to body may be more significant, for example, for mice or other small rodents).]
79So why and how did humans come to acquire a brain-mass much greater than is needed for routine bodily functions ? From home habilis to modern homo sapiens the brain grew from an average 750 cc. to cc.[No known comparable rate of increase in brain size in any other species at any time in the history of life on earth. Plotkin 1996]
80HYPOTHESES1. Social complexity2. Foraging strategies3. Language development
81There has been intense and long-enduring discussion of these issues and many unresolved arguments with much speculation and little useful evidence. Here it is only possible to make a few comments:
82SOCIAL COMPLEXITYWhether, for humans, social complexity favouring larger brains could have developed without some form of language is unclear. On the other hand, there are animals, ants, bees, termites, which manage complex societies with minuscule brains. The case is made mainly in terms of ape behaviour - the orangutan, one of the more intelligent animals is solitary.
83FORAGINGThis account has been developed mainly by specialists in primate behaviour. It may go some way to account for the relatively large brains of chimpanzees and gorillas but has little explanatory value for the remarkable near-double increase in the human brain, even when associated with the somewhat implausible development of the idea of Machiavellian intelligence - that deceiving group members was one of the necessary aspects of increased intelligence.
84LANGUAGEThat the remarkable increase in human brain size (unmatched by any similar rate of increase in other animals) should have some relation to the equally remarkable (unmatched by other animals) evolutionary human acquisition : language, seems an obvious and plausible hypothesis.
85But the debate, confusion and uncertainty about the process by which humans invented, acquired or developed language, or languages, still rages, after 2500 years. The question about the evolutionary relation of human brain-size and language goes with the unsettled question about the brain or social processes making possible another remarkable achievement, the untutored, extensive and rapid acquisition of language, complex syntaxes and massive lexicons, by children
87A NEW EVO-DEVO BALDWIN EFFECT The accepted evolutionary account of the Baldwin effect was that humans, and other animals, by changing their behaviour changed their environment and so created novel potentialities for natural selection which could operate in succeeding generations, making it possible for culture to modify evolution.With the recent growth of the new discipline Evo-Devo concerned with the relation between developmental and evolutionary processes, a new application or understanding of the Baldwin effect in relation to development of the brain becomes possible.
88CELL DEATHIn the development of the brain, many more neurons are produced than are ultimately needed to create the mature brain. The neurons are thinned out by programmed cell death; the initial supply of neurons (twice as many as eventually survive) are in competition to establish appropriate connections. Those which do not get the necessary access to a source of NGF (nerve growth factor) die, this Neural Darwinism (in a sense completely different from Gerald Edelman’s term) is natural selection at work.
893 cells compete. 2 win and the 3rd dies THE DYING CELL3 cells compete. 2 win and the 3rd dies(repeating loop)Celldeath
90Through cell death each individual brain is sculpted to match the environment in which the brain develops (both fetally and for an extended period after birth). Cell death continues shaping the brain long after birth. From 8-14 for brain and body together the average child loses approx billion cells a day. The average adult loses approx billion a day.
92Cell death can now be recognised as an important link between brain and environment, operating through life to permit experience to shape the brain. It is via cell death that the relation between brain-size and culture including language can be understood. A key point in the operation of this process in he developing brain is individual brain variation. Each brain is unique in many ways, including its size and the number of neurons which have to find appropriate connections to survive.
93BRAIN INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCE Natural selection can come into play on differences in brain structure derived from the culture. Increased brain size means the availability of more neurons (and more neuronal inter-connections) available to match the extending experience of the individual- and so increase the selective advantage of the individual in a changing culture. A virtuous circle is established with the better adapted and no doubt larger- brained individuals playing a larger part in manipulating the environment in which the next generation will have to face natural selection and in their turn have their brains shaped by experience.
94Language in the group will account for an ever-larger segment of total cultural input to the brain and will also act as a powerful instrument in shaping the social system. A ratchet effect is established which goes to promote a persisting increase in brain-size (and skull-size co-ordinated by allometry with brain-size) until the skull-size hits the anatomical constraint of birth-canal size..
95SKULL AND BRAIN SIZEThe brain no doubt keeps on growing in complexity to accommodate continuing language and other cultural changes but the growth must take the form of internal re-arrangement to produce the elaborate infolding seen in the modern human brain.
96LEXICON INPUTBut how does language drive this? The major new language input to the brain is through a rapidly expanding lexicon. The growing lexicon, on the motor theory of language, requires that each word creates a articulatory motor program (linked to and derived from the visual or action percept) The influx of novel words involves an increasing demand for neurons and neuronal connections. Baldwin Evo-devo is the form in which language drives growth in the size of the human brain in response to the acquisition of words.
97SYNTAX ?Additional demand for neurons and connections to accommodate syntax is less significant. Language syntax can rely substantially on pre-existing organisation of the motor and visual systems, motor syntax and vision syntax, and the neurons and connections serving these.
98SPEECHBut of course this only goes so far in explaining the evolutionary role of language. Before the Baldwin Evo-Devo process can begin to operate to increase brain-size, there must already be language and language-related culture. There must already be words.The central question remains: WHY and HOW could speech and language have got going for humans at all? Why humans and not dogs or apes? The most plausible possibility is, as Jan Wind suggested long ago, not that there was some massive mutation but a continuing process of cerebral reorganisation. Relatively minor changes, well within the scope of inherent brain plasticity, could have made speech possible.
99WHAT FORM COULD THESE CHANGES HAVE TAKEN? Research papers listed earlier offer some possibilities:
100MOTOR CORTEX FOR SPEECH Jurgens: Neuroanatomically, the step from genetically determined controlled vocal patterns is associated with the emergence of a direct connection between the motor cortex and the laryngeal motoneurons, a connection lacking in subhuman primates.
101INCREASED NERVE SUPPLY Kay Cartmill Balow: “Hypoglossal canal and the origin of human vocal behavior” The hypoglossal canal (which carries nerves controlling tongue movements) is much larger in humans than in other primates or in australopithecus. The larger canal is adapted to carry a much richer motor innervation of the tongue and so to make possible language as a uniquely human ability.
102Brown Ngan Liotti “A larynx area in the human motor cortex” CONTROL OF THE LARYNXBrown Ngan Liotti “A larynx area in the human motor cortex”“A human evolutionary novelty perhaps related to emergence of voluntary control of vocalisation.”
103MOTOR CONTROLPulvermuller Hauk Nikulin Ilmoniemi “Functional links between motor and language systems”. TMS experiment showing specific links between action and language systems during lexical processing.Graziano Taylor Moore Cooke “The cortical control of movement revisited.” One possibility is that the mechanisms for speech were built on a preexisting mechanism for motor control.
104BUT WHERE DID THE WORDS COME FROM ? Some, or all, of the listed cortical changes could have made speech possible for humans (but not for other primates). But for the Baldwin Evo-Devo effect to operate there had to be words. Where did they come from? Where does any individual word come from? Herder said that it was totally impossible that words should be arbitrary, that someone should invent say the word GREEN out of the top of his head for the distinctive colour Green. If he picked a set of speech sounds at random, say POGGLE, to mean Green, why should others accept and understand him Even more impossible, how could anyone arbitrarily invent the words IF, MIND, SAD, THINK - there is nothing to point to for these words; there is no sound or shape to imitate.
105LANGUAGE WITHIN OUR GRASP Rizzolatti and Arbib argued that the discovery of mirror neurons linking responsive motor programming in the brain of an observer with observed motor patterning of action of another individual, could have been the basis for the evolution of language. The mirror neurons could have made, and still make, imitation possible, including imitation of gesture. Arbib argues that “the ability to imitate is a key innovation”, “a neurobiological ‘missing link’ for the hypothesis that primitive forms of communication based on manual gesture preceded speech in the evolution of language”. “A possible evolutionary path from manual skills to language”. Gallese says “the discovery of mirror neurons may provide a new, though still sketchy, neurobiological basis to account for the emergence of language”.
106SO WHAT CAN IMITATION DO IN THE EMERGENCE OF LANGUAGE ? Some things can be indicated by gestures, a tree, the sky, a direction, up or down, come and go, high and low. Gesture can be used to point to things, to indicate hearing, eating or drinking, etc. But for many things manual gesture is inadequate: colours -white black red, sounds, different animals - what would be a manual gesture for a horse, a fish, a rose, a cabbage? Imitation must extend much wider than manual gesture, for example to animal cries, the noise of the wind or rain, thunder, lightning, the sea.
107IMITATION IN THE BRAINImitation v mimicry - What matters is stored imitation (requiring commitment of neurons and interconnecting fibres) in the form of a link between word and imitated act, sound or shape so that there can be ready access to the word and what it refers to. Words are anchored in the motor patterning and are expressible as bodily and articulatory gesture. Deacon quoted by Gerhard: the “everyday miracle of word meaning and reference”. So each individual word was an arbitrary invention with an equally arbitrary linking to what it related to! With Herder and Humboldt, surely not.
108HOW DOES THE WORD GET LINKED TO WHAT IT REFERS TO ? How was each gesture invented? Was each gesture as arbitrary as traditional linguistics says that each word is? Clearly not. A gesture is patterned by the action seen, the shape of what is seen, the sound hear, for a vocal gesture. Mirror neurons may allow transfer of the pattern of an action and the ability to reproduce the action as a gesture (not in any way arbitrary) - but imitation has to be possible for much beyond perceived action.
109HOW WORDS WERE FORMEDThe process by which words were formed was the inverse of the process by which gestures and sounds can be generated from existing word-forms - a reverse application of motor equivalence. On seeing some one hitting something, the action patterning was by motor equivalence converted into articulatory patterning to produce a speech-sound structure, a word, directly related to the action patterning seen. Similarly on hearing an animal sound, the typical sound of a cat or a lion, the sound-patterning is transduced by motor equivalence to form a word whose structure is derived from the sound heard.
110IN BRIEFGestures of all kinds were generated by imitation of actions, shapes and sound. These were stored as motor programs before humans acquired speechWhen cerebral reorganisation provided new direct connections between the motor cortex, the tongue and the larynx, there was a great increase in the innervation of the articulatory apparatus generally. The motor programs from gestural origins were transduced automatically into words structured by the gestural programs. The meanings of words were automatically linked to the action, sound and shape percepts to which the gestures referred.
111click on pointer or just continue To return to Startclick on pointer or just continue
112EUROPEAN SOCIETY FOR THE STUDY OF COGNITIVE SYSTEMS Linz August 2009THE STUFF OF THOUGHTPinker: Language and the MindRobin Allott
115“Language as a window into human nature” Steven Pinker is a prolific author on topics bearing on the relation of brain and language. His books are always thought-provoking and at the same time easily readable and amusing. His latest book The Stuff of Thought is an ambitious attempt to explore how language constructs or forms the mind.“Language as a window into human nature”[Steven Pinker 2007 The Stuff of Thought. London:Allen Lane.]
116Much of his study is concerned with words, their link to reality, their origin and development, though he also explores the minutiae of grammar in an attempt to understand how thought is ordered. The starting-point for critical examination is a close look at what he says about words.[Pinker extracts or summaries are shown in inverted commas]
117“Words and reality: a word must leave some trace in the brain. Human characterisations of reality are built out of a recognisable inventory of thoughts. The notions of space, time, possession and goals appear to make up a language of thought (Kant was surely right).”
118“Every one of the half million words in the Oxford English Dictionary had to be thought up by a person at some point in history, accepted by a community and perpetuated through the ages. How this tacit agreement was forged across a community is mysterious, a real puzzle.”
119“Words for many kinds of things are rigidly yoked to the world by acts of pointing, dubbing and sticking together; words ‘are fettered’ to reality. The meaning of a word for a natural kind is not a description or definition, but a pointer to something in the world. Thinking is rooted in physical experience with a finite stock of signs which entangle us in the world outside our heads.”
120“How do people conjure up a new sound to label a concept “How do people conjure up a new sound to label a concept? Where do new words come from? new roots?”
121“The most obvious source of a new root is onomatopoeia “The most obvious source of a new root is onomatopoeia. Somewhat handier than onomatopoeia is sound symbolism and phonaesthesia (sneeze, sniff). Examples of words invented by a child for butterfly – ‘as if the words are supposed to act out the flapping of the wings” and also recognising “the ‘motor component’ of ‘hit’
122“The most remarkable thing we do with language is learn it in the first place - how a raw stream of noise could conjure up concepts in the child’s mind out of nothing is a mystery.”
123“A first approach is to look at the elements of thought through the complexities of grammar; the combinatorial apparatus of grammar mirrors the combinatorial apparatus of thought.”
124“Emotionally laced words can “fool us into thinking” that the words have magical powers rather than being arbitrary conventions.”
125What counts as thought?What counts as language?How do we think?In words? Without words? In images?How different from animals?
126Word and meaning ?Alex, Irene Pepperberg’s grey parrot, answering some difficult questionsAlex
127Creative thought ?The New Caledonian crow tries with a piece of wire to get some meat out of the tube. Failing to do so, it bends the wire into a hook. Without training or any demonstration or previous experience, it makes a hook and uses it to get the meat.Crow Hook
128Learning by trial and error ? David Attenborough describes how crows in a Japanese city found a new way to solve their problem
129The unrecognised structure of minds The nature of mindThe unrecognised structure of minds
130THE METHODS OF INVESTIGATION. Introspective Observation is what we have to rely on first and foremost and always. The word introspection need hardly be defined -- it means, of course, the looking into our own minds and reporting what we there discover. Everyone agrees that we there discover states of consciousness. All people unhesitatingly believe that they feel themselves thinking, and that they distinguish the mental state as an inward activity or passion, from all the objects with which it may cognitively deal. I regard this belief as the most fundamental of all the postulates of Psychology, and shall discard all curious inquiries about its certainty as too metaphysical for the scope of this book.[William James Principles of Psychology]
131The dark cave of the mind (Virginia Woolf) The radius refluxus - the beam of light that the human mind focuses on itself (Francis Bacon)lucidus ordo - an orderly clarity formed by the mind in conjunction with Nature
132But since William James we also have the possibility for direct examination of the brain in the process of using words, thinking, feeling and acting.Investigating mind directly
133A lot of people think (have thought) about thinking – Descartes Locke Kant etc Wittgenstein and a multitude of modern authors, Fodor, Jackendoff, Chomsky etc. etc
134“Ever since Darwin and Wallace people have wondered how the human mind evolved the ability. to reason about abstract domains such as physics etc. which have no relevance to reproduction and survival.”
135Topics not discussed in this presentation Language theories – logistic verbal approaches -the mis-use of language: in thought, in philosophy, in linguistics, in psychology, in the computational approach, in logic - mechanistic approaches - the narrowly rational use of language - mentalese etc - not metaphor considered as a purely linguistic concept
136Pre-verbal thought only one aspect of mind – other ways of mind functioning – and in other animals Pre-verbal thought > language ?The root of language – its relation to the world
137ABSTRACT CONCEPTSWonder by Darwin and others how we came to reason about abstract matters like physics etc, not serving survival and reproduction?Is there some form of hierarchical progression in the brain ? The repetition of a similarly structured process at successively higher levels ?
138Neuroscience research into abstraction Neuroscience research into abstraction ? (Abstraction of Mental Representations: Neuroscientific EvidenceChristoff and Keramatian) Progressively higher degrees of abstraction located in the lateral frontal cortexProgress from a photograph, a picture, to a cartoon – increasingly reduced – Hitler’s moustachelike abstraction – on and on to the minimum - the gistas a brain process – a neuronal process
139GRAMMAR?Large parts of the innate “sets” which go toconstitute syntax will exist for pre-human organismsGrammar has to manage the behavioural choicesand patterns of action of humans and of animals,patterns of action that humans and animals must have neurally represented (in the brain) long before language emergedBefore the grammar of language, there is the necessary grammar of action and perception with which every language however apparently different has to grappleOne can look for an innateness of “grammatical” elements which could converge in a (completely new and different) description of) universal grammar?
140WORDS?Where do new words come from?The motor component of ‘hit’ - the child and butterfly?From noises to concepts in the child “a mystery” ?“Magical words” - when only “arbitrary conventions” ?A human being as a network of words? the mind as a network of words? Perhaps notWords come at their own slow speed - awaiting the unavoidable words? The compact idea, the compact word-set?
141Words are anchored in the cortical motor patterning and are expressible as actions. The brain can be seen as a network of motor patterns lodged at specifically appropriate places, as Pulvermuller’s research has suggested.
142ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR?Is there anything to be learnt from:animal communication and thought?animal creative thought?animal learning by trial and error?Perhaps this, that apart from language, our brains function in similar waysIt is speech and language that has made us different, in some extraordinarily important ways
143WHERE IS THE BRAIN GOING? Maybe the brain has a direction (if not a purpose)?a brain drive seen in thought and languageWhat is it like? what process does it resemble?Can one see an evolutionary process in the brain ?In some sense the survival of the fittest structures, the fittest thoughts ?The freedom of the mind, of thought, taking the form of thecontrol of attention - the choice of what, out of many possibilities, many possible thoughts, many possible actions, we choose to centre on ?
144What are we left with from Pinker? Is language a window into human nature?Words must leave traces in the brain?A language of thought?Each word emerging and surviving through time - “a real puzzle” ?A finite stock of signs ?
145What conclusions can one reach? The rudiments of thought exist in birds, apes, whales and no doubt many other animalsThere is no doubt a hierarchical pattern for animals for thought and consciousness, dependent on brain size and complexityThe hierarchy of thought (dependent on brain size and structure) was a normal part of the evolutionary processThe brain was evolving, thought was evolving,Language and speech is a step not taken by other animalsWe can talk about our thought- observe (watch) our thought, our thoughts, our thinkingThe character of our thought, the content of our thought, the complexity of our thought, was changed by language
146VIRGINIA WOOLF talking about the nature of words in a radio broadcast in the 1930 Thirties
147GESTURE INTO SPEECH AND LANGUAGE The evolutionary origin of speech and language is to be found in the human ability to imitate, to use gesture, that is to use arm and bodily movements to point to something or to model something.Speech came when there was a change in the human brain (perhaps related to brain changes associated with the new ability to walk on two feet - bipedalism) which allowed the neural motor programs which pattern all movement (particularly movement of the hands and arms) to be transferred (by motor equivalence, fully explained in many earlier presentations) to become articulatory gesture, movements of the mouth, the tongue, the larynx which produced distinctive sounds, words, structurally related to the structure of the originating gesture.
148To conclude (provisionally): Human thought is radically different from animal thought because we have speech and language and animals do notBut language is not the whole of human thought. We think in images and in trial mental actions. We think in core properties, feelings and emotions, which we no doubt share with many animals.So Pinker may be right in seeing language as a window into the mind but not as the only route (or the most important route) to understanding human nature.[See the extensive material on language and evolution at