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Journal Article

Is language natural to man? Some historical considerations


Levelt,  Willem J. M.
Emeriti, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Levelt, W. J. M. (2018). Is language natural to man? Some historical considerations. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 21, 127-131. doi:10.1016/j.cobeha.2018.04.003.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0001-3BFE-0
Since the Enlightenment period, natural theories of speech and language evolution have florished in the language sciences. Four ever returning core issues are highlighted in this paper: Firstly, Is language natural to man or just an invention? Secondly, Is language a specific human ability (a ‘language instinct’) or does it arise from general cognitive capacities we share with other animals? Thirdly, Has the evolution of language been a gradual process or did it rather suddenly arise, due to some ‘evolutionary twist’? Lastly, Is the child's language acquisition an appropriate model for language evolution?