Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Language Evolution$
Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content.

Morten H. Christiansen and Simon Kirby

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780199244843

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199244843.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use.date: 06 July 2022

Universal Grammar and Semiotic Constraints

Universal Grammar and Semiotic Constraints

(p.111) 7 Universal Grammar and Semiotic Constraints
Language Evolution

Terrence W. Deacon (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter places the human ability for complex symbolic communication at the centre of language evolution. It rejects the notion that the many subpatterns of language structure that can be found across all the languages of the worlds — the so-called language universals — are products of cultural processes, or that they reflect a set of evolved innate constraints (a language-specific ‘Universal Grammar’). Instead, evidence from philosophy and semiotics suggests that they derive from a third kind of constraint originating from within the linguistic symbol system itself. Because of the complex relationships between words and what they refer to (as symbols), semiotic constraints arise from within the symbol system when putting words together to form phrases and sentences. During the evolution of language, humans probably discovered the set of universal semiotic constraints. These constraints govern not only human language but also, by their very nature, any system of symbolic communication, terrestrial or otherwise.

Keywords:   language, language evolution, language universals, semiotics, philosophy, semiotic constraints, symbols, symbolic communication, Universal Grammar

Oxford Scholarship Online requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books within the service. Public users can however freely search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter.

Please, subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

To troubleshoot, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us .