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The origins of syntax: from navigation to language

Bartlett, M. and Kazakov, D. (2005) The origins of syntax: from navigation to language. Connection Science, 17 (3&4). pp. 271-288. ISSN 0954-0091

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This article suggests that the parser underlying human syntax may have originally evolved to assist navigation, a claim supported by computational simulations as well as evidence from neuroscience and psychology. We discuss two independent conjectures about the way in which navigation could have supported the emergence of this aspect of the human language faculty: firstly, by promoting the development of a parser; and secondly, by possibly providing a topic of discussion to which this parser could have been applied with minimum effort. The paper summarizes our previously published experiments and provides original results in support of the evolutionary advantages this type of communication can provide, compared with other foraging strategies. Another aspect studied in the experiments is the combination and range of environmental factors that make communication beneficial, focusing on the availability and volatility of resources. We suggest that the parser evolved for navigation might initially have been limited to handling regular languages, and describe a mechanism that may have created selective pressure for a context-free parser.

Item Type: Article
Institution: The University of York
Academic Units: The University of York > Computer Science (York)
Depositing User: York RAE Import
Date Deposited: 12 Jun 2009 09:35
Last Modified: 12 Jun 2009 09:35
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09540090500282479
Status: Published
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
Identification Number: 10.1080/09540090500282479
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/5924

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