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									EUROPEAN SOCIETY FOR THE STUDY OF
       COGNITIVE SYSTEMS
                       Robin Allott
                     Presentations
       -------------------------------------------------

         1. The Evolution/Machine:
Reconsidering La Mettrie’s L'homme machine
                    Genoa Italy 2008

       2. The Ascent of Intelligence
  Gesture and Language : Mind and Body
         Groningen The Netherlands 2007


            3. The Stuff of Thought
     Pinker: Language and the Mind
               Linz Austria 2009


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               ASSOCIATED VIDEOS ON THE INTERNET


[videos best in full screen : close video to return to presentation]
MOTOR THEORY OF LANGUAGE, EVOLUTION AND
               FUNCTION
     BRAIN SPEECH AND INTELLIGENCE
"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."
The 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.
Parallelisms of word and gesture (dual expressions of
meaning) can be made overt by specific controlled
mind/brain operations
The 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
           ANIMAL NAMES


  Animal names are derived from animal sounds
The sound-structures of animal names can reverse
  the process and regenerate the animal sounds
 EUROPEAN SOCIETY FOR THE
STUDY OF COGNITIVE SYSTEMS
       Genoa 2-4 July 2008


           ABSTRACT
      The Evolution/Machine:
Reconsidering La Mettrie’s L'homme
             machine
           Robin Allott
In 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 1751. The following (condensed freely
from the English translation) gives some idea of
the argument in L’Homme 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.”
“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.”
Reconsidering 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 ?
La Mettrie proposed that the human is 100% machine
How much of a machine should we think we are now?
There 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 ! )
These videos present, in real time, what Francis
Crick called the central dogma of modern biology,
how DNA makes protein
and also suggest how neurons change to respond
to incoming information and to the cell environment
DNA 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)
TRANSLATION: 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
 NEUROSCIENCE
Brain Remodelling I
Dendrite(blue) spines growing in real time (recorded in
2006) Spines grow on the surface of the neuron, on
the dendrites
                NEUROSCIENCE
               Brain Remodelling II

Kandel Nobel Lecture December 2000
The Molecular Biology of Memory Storage: A Dialog
between Genes and Synapses

The 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”
Science shows us how more profoundly we are
                 machines


Evolutionary theory suggests we are machines in
                a broader sense
                  EVOLUTION


Evolutionary biology has introduced a completely new
dimension – which La Mettrie no doubt might have
welcomed as further demonstrating how the human is
a 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.
The 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.
Brain of Drosophila
Melanogaster
Courtship 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. 2000 Courtship in drosophila
Annu. Rev. Genet. 2000. 34:205–32]
A 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.
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.
Crudely 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.
Present-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]
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 !)
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).
WHAT DO WE NOT SHARE WITH ANIMALS?
A sensory-motor cortex 5 times larger than for the
chimpanzee

Speech and spoken language certainly (and writing)
- but much else

Mind         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.
Mind 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 consciousness


But it is less certain whether any animals
have mind as an originating, controlling and
predictive system
Understanding of the human mind and
human consciousness has advanced
surprisingly little since La Mettrie’s time
(despite Darwin)
The 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?
                LANGUAGE

La 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?
Separate what language does:

In the brain – Internally –

In the human group – Externally –
Internally (in the brain)
Role in ?

creating mind
creating the self
creating I and You

making possible prediction and the planning of action
stabilising understanding

discriminating past present and future > time
labelling memory > history

analysing and mirroring the external world
reshaping the brain - increasing intelligence
Externally (in the group)
Language operating at a distance - and writing
at a further distance, in time as well as in
space

Family relationships made conscious by
naming

Communication in the group and the
stabilisation of groups

Classification of objects

Accumulation of knowledge and invention

A language as externalised mind ?
Language 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
              WORDS


  Language is a system of words
It is through words that language has
         changed human beings
How 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
.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
                   GESTURES

Words have made humans into what they are now

But where did the words come from:

Words came from gestures.
Where 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.
    But 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
brain
Walking 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
The 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
Was 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)
FROM GESTURE TO SPEECH
“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. 2000.
[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)
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.
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.
The 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.
The Ascent of Intelligence through
           language
Brains, 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)
 EUROPEAN SOCIETY FOR THE
STUDY OF COGNITIVE SYSTEMS
 20-22 August 2007, Groningen,
        The Netherlands



          ABSTRACT
  ASCENT OF INTELLIGENCE
Gesture and Language : Mind and
             Body
          Robin Allott
The 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 advance
as 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).
Both 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).
The 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.
Progress in neuroscience, and
particularly recent experimental
research using fmri and other
techniques, has provided
material support for the motor
basis of language.
                            RECENT RESEARCH


(1) “A larynx area in the human motor cortex” Brown Ngan Liotti Cerebral Cortex
July 25 2007 A human evolutionary novelty perhaps related to emergence of
voluntary control of vocalisation
(2) “The organisation of behavioral repertoires in the motor cortex” 2006.
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 44 178-190. 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.
                      OTHER RELEVANT MATERIAL


(6) “Functional links between motor and language systems” 2005
Pulvermuller Hauk Nikulin Ilmoniemi Eur J Neurosci 3 1793-7. 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, 841-851.

(9) “The cortical control of movement revisited.” Graziano Taylor Moore
Cooke Neuron 36, 349-362. "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 303:1316-
1319. Abundant behavioral evidence for an intimate connection between
language and motor abilities.
                            MORE SPECULATIVE


(5) “Hypoglossal canal and the origin of human vocal behavior” 1998 Kay
Cartmill Balow PNAS 95 5417-5419. 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 413 519-523. Motor
control and language implications.

(11) “Language within our grasp”. 1998. Rizzolatti, G. and M. Arbib. Trends in
Neuroscience 21 188-194. Mirror neurons make possible empathy and
imitation and so provide a basis for the evolution of language.

(12) EvoDevo

(13) Baldwin effect
       THE ORIGIN OF WORDS
FROM THE IMITATION OF SOUNDS SHAPES
             AND ACTIONS
THEN TRANSDUCED INTO ARTICULATORY
           PROGRAMS
       BY MOTOR EQUIVALENCE
Motor equivalence has been the central
process in the origin and functioning of
language and the acquisition of words.
 EVIDENCE ?
EXAMPLES ?
EXPERIMENT ?
THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS ?
          Or
MATERIAL EXPERIMENTS ?
         OR
 MIND EXPERIMENTS ?
The 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
Parallelisms of word and gesture (dual expressions of
meaning) can be made overt by specific controlled
mind/brain operations
LANGUAGE AND THE ASCENT OF
      INTELLIGENCE
   INTELLIGENCE ?


Brain size and structure ?
    Baldwin effect ?
       EvoDevo ?
                  BRAIN SIZE
The 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.
BUT … 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).]
So 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 1350-400 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]
            HYPOTHESES
1. Social complexity
2. Foraging strategies
3. Language development
There 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:
         SOCIAL COMPLEXITY
Whether, 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.
                 FORAGING


This 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.
                        LANGUAGE
That 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.
But 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
           EVO-DEVO
Evolutionary developmental biology


       BALDWIN EFFECT
  Behaviour evolution interaction
        A 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.
                              CELL DEATH
In 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.
 THE DYING CELL
3 cells compete. 2 win
   and the 3rd dies
   (repeating loop)
Through 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 the average child loses approx.
20-39 billion cells a day. The average adult loses approx.50-70
billion a day.
CELL DEATH AND EVOLUTION
Cell 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.
                 BRAIN 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.
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 (and skull-size co-
ordinated by allometry with brain-size) until the skull-size
hits the anatomical constraint of birth-canal size..
           SKULL AND BRAIN SIZE
The 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.
                        LEXICON INPUT
But 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.
               SYNTAX ?
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.
                             SPEECH
But 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.
WHAT FORM COULD THESE CHANGES HAVE TAKEN?


Research papers listed earlier offer some possibilities:
         MOTOR 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.
         INCREASED 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.
                CONTROL OF THE LARYNX


 Brown Ngan Liotti “A larynx area in the human motor cortex”
“A human evolutionary novelty perhaps related to emergence of
              voluntary control of vocalisation.”
                        MOTOR CONTROL


Pulvermuller 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.
 BUT 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.
                 LANGUAGE 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”.
  SO 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.
                   IMITATION IN THE BRAIN

Imitation 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.
  HOW 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.
         HOW WORDS WERE FORMED

The 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.
                  IN BRIEF

Gestures of all kinds were generated by imitation
of actions, shapes and sound. These were stored
as motor programs before humans acquired
speech
When 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
         To return to Start

click on pointer or just continue
EUROPEAN SOCIETY FOR THE STUDY OF
       COGNITIVE SYSTEMS
       Linz 26-27 August 2009




      THE STUFF OF THOUGHT
    Pinker: Language and the Mind

            Robin Allott
Thought and Language: Pompeii
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.]
Much 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]
“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).”
“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.”
“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.”
“How do people conjure up a new sound to
label a concept? Where do new words come
from? new roots?”
“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’
“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.”
“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.”
“Emotionally laced words can “fool us into thinking”
that the words have magical powers rather than being
arbitrary conventions.”
What counts as thought?

What counts as language?

How do we think?

In words? Without words? In images?

How different from animals?
              Word and meaning ?
Alex, Irene Pepperberg’s grey parrot, answering
some difficult questions
                     Creative 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.
           Learning by trial and error ?
David Attenborough describes how crows in a
Japanese city found a new way to solve their
problem
        The nature of mind




The unrecognised structure of minds
        THE 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]
The 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
But 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
A lot of people think (have thought) about
thinking – Descartes Locke Kant etc
Wittgenstein


and a multitude of modern authors, Fodor,
Jackendoff, Chomsky etc. etc
“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.”
     Topics 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
Pre-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
           ABSTRACT CONCEPTS

Wonder 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 ?
Neuroscience research into abstraction ? (Abstraction of
Mental Representations: Neuroscientific Evidence
Christoff and Keramatian) Progressively higher degrees
of abstraction located in the lateral frontal cortex


Progress from a photograph, a picture, to a cartoon –
increasingly reduced – Hitler’s moustache
like abstraction – on and on to the minimum - the gist
as a brain process – a neuronal process
                       GRAMMAR?

Large parts of the innate “sets” which go to
constitute syntax will exist for pre-human organisms
Grammar has to manage the behavioural choices
and 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
emerged

Before the grammar of language, there is the necessary
grammar of action and perception with which every
language however apparently different has to grapple

One can look for an innateness of “grammatical” elements
which could converge in a (completely new and different)
                        WORDS?


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 not

Words come at their own slow speed - awaiting the
unavoidable words? The compact idea, the compact
word-set?
Words 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.
               ANIMAL 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 ways
It is speech and language that has made us
different, in some extraordinarily important ways
           WHERE IS THE BRAIN GOING?

Maybe the brain has a direction (if not a purpose)?
a brain drive seen in thought and language

What 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 the
control of attention - the choice of what, out of many
possibilities, many possible thoughts, many possible
actions, we choose to centre on ?
What 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 ?
What conclusions can one reach?
The rudiments of thought exist in birds, apes, whales and no
doubt many other animals
There is no doubt a hierarchical pattern for animals for
thought and consciousness, dependent on brain size and
complexity
The hierarchy of thought (dependent on brain size and
structure) was a normal part of the evolutionary process
The brain was evolving, thought was evolving,
Language and speech is a step not taken by other animals
We can talk about our thought- observe (watch) our thought,
our thoughts, our thinking
The character of our thought, the content of our thought, the
VIRGINIA WOOLF talking about
 the nature of words in a radio
    broadcast in the 1930s
     GESTURE 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.
            To conclude (provisionally):


Human thought is radically different from animal
thought because we have speech and language and
animals do not
But 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
http://www.percepp.com]

								
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