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    Macalester College
  Dec 13, 2017
College Catalog 2013-2014 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

LING 202 - Origins/Evolution of Language

In 1870, the Linguistic Society of Paris decreed that all papers on the topic of the origin of speech were inadmissible. In recent years, speculations about the evolutions of language have become respectable once again, as attested by the number of international conferences on the topic, and journals devoted to it. Although we are only a little closer to a description of “proto-human” than we were back in 1870, it is now universally recognized that there are no primitive languages, and that neither the comparative method of historical linguistics nor internal reconstruction can allow us to reconstruct the earliest human languages (although they still allow us to make inferences about Proto-Indo-European and other ancient extinct languages). But there have been advances in our understanding of the neurological substrate for linguistic ability, communication in (some) other species, and in the application of the uniformitarian hypothesis: the processes we now observe in different kinds of language change are themselves capable of producing all the recognized “design features” of human language out of earlier structures in which these features are lacking. Prerequisite(s): LING 100  or LING 301  (4 Credits)