Biolinguistics: Exploring the Biology of Language

This book investigates the nature of human language and its importance for the study of the mind. In particular, it examines current work on the biology of language. Lyle Jenkins reviews the evidence that language is best characterized by a generative grammar of the kind introduced by Noam Chomsky in the 1950s and developed in various directions since that time. He then discusses research into the development of language which tries to capture both the underlying universality of human language, as well as the diversity found in individual languages (Universal Grammar). Finally, he discusses a variety of approaches to language design and the evolution of language. An important theme is the integration of biolinguistics into the natural sciences - the ‘unification problem’. Jenkins also answers criticisms of the biolinguistic approach from a number of other perspectives, including evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, connectionism and ape language research, among others.

• Overview of a new, important and growing area of linguistics • Surveys the biology of language in a comprehensive and challenging way • An original study that takes the debate further


Preface; Acknowledgements; Introduction; 1. The unification problem; 2. Knowledge and use of language; 3. Acquisition (growth) of language; 4. Mechanisms of language; 5. Evolution of language; 6. Conclusion; References; Index.


‘Jenkin’s book is useful for the range of topics it discusses, and for the historical dimension that it provides on biolinguistic exploration as seen from a Chomskyan viewpoint.’ Andrew Carstairs-McCarthy, Diachronica

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