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      Grammars are robustly transmitted even during the emergence of creole languages

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      Nature Human Behaviour

      Springer Nature

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          The Ecology of Language Evolution

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            Cultural evolution: implications for understanding the human language faculty and its evolution.

            Human language is unique among the communication systems of the natural world: it is socially learned and, as a consequence of its recursively compositional structure, offers open-ended communicative potential. The structure of this communication system can be explained as a consequence of the evolution of the human biological capacity for language or the cultural evolution of language itself. We argue, supported by a formal model, that an explanatory account that involves some role for cultural evolution has profound implications for our understanding of the biological evolution of the language faculty: under a number of reasonable scenarios, cultural evolution can shield the language faculty from selection, such that strongly constraining language-specific learning biases are unlikely to evolve. We therefore argue that language is best seen as a consequence of cultural evolution in populations with a weak and/or domain-general language faculty.
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              Climate, vocal folds, and tonal languages: Connecting the physiological and geographic dots.

              We summarize a number of findings in laryngology demonstrating that perturbations of phonation, including increased jitter and shimmer, are associated with desiccated ambient air. We predict that, given the relative imprecision of vocal fold vibration in desiccated versus humid contexts, arid and cold ecologies should be less amenable, when contrasted to warm and humid ecologies, to the development of languages with phonemic tone, especially complex tone. This prediction is supported by data from two large independently coded databases representing 3,700+ languages. Languages with complex tonality have generally not developed in very cold or otherwise desiccated climates, in accordance with the physiologically based predictions. The predicted global geographic-linguistic association is shown to operate within continents, within major language families, and across language isolates. Our results offer evidence that human sound systems are influenced by environmental factors.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Nature Human Behaviour
                Nat Hum Behav
                Springer Nature
                2397-3374
                October 2017
                September 4 2017
                : 1
                : 10
                : 723-729
                Article
                10.1038/s41562-017-0192-4
                b19810bb-d70f-46aa-8267-8955edee74ec
                © 2017

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