Why Don’t Languages Adapt to Their Environment?

The issue of whether languages adapt to their environment depends on our reason of language, adaptation, and environment. I consider these three concepts from an internalist or biolinguistic point of view. If adaptation is defined as the leave of the differential infection of phenotypical traits by means of natural selection, then both lifelike species and languages are adapted. Recall that according to Darwin ‘s own insight, the evolutionary mechanism for species and languages are “ curiously the same ” ( or “ curiously parallel ” ). however, if the concept of adaptation entails that the environment is the essential source of the social organization of evolving objects, then neither natural species nor languages can be said to be adapted to their environment. In the case of languages, I will argue that much of their structure is insensitive to diachronic deepen and, therefore, incapable of adaptation to the external environment. The contiguous environment of languages is in fact internal to the mind/brain and is therefore less variable than the social and physical environment in which people live. On the other hand, the dimensions of languages that are variable star have such an collateral sexual intercourse with the physical and social environment that the impression of adaptation to extra-linguistic reality can only be applied weakly, and then it is unable to explain the main patterns of linguistic structural diverseness .

Introduction: Reasons for Skepticism

My calculate here is to consider proposals that seek to explain the structure of languages in terms of adaptation to their physical and cultural environment, and to do so with a degree of agnosticism. Ladd et aluminum. characterize these proposals as “ attempts to relate facts about language structure to facts about speakers and their environment—variables such as group size, geographic location, genetic constitution, and cultural expectations ” ( Ladd et al., 2015, p. 227 ). This is not, of class, to deny the implicit in interest or value of such work ( see current syntheses in Ladd et al., 2015 ; Lupyan and Dale, 2016 ). actually, my critical place toward the claim that there is an influence of extralinguistic factors in the structure of languages is based on a restrictive concept of what is the structure of languages. then, I neither disapprove nor question the works that detect ( more or less full-bodied ) correlations between certain external factors and certain aspects of languages, but I argue that if we understand the structure of languages as it is done in the context of current syntactic theory ( particularly in the generativist sphere ), then the claim that the social organization of languages can be explained as the solution of an adaptation to environmental factors ( social, forcible, or otherwise ) is misinform and inadequately simplifying. This is sol because in the aforesaid custom, the notion of “ the social organization of languages ” transcends relatively superficial aspects ( such as the morphologic manifestation of certain grammatical categories or the variation in discussion order ) and focuses on ( basically syntactic ) formal structural aspects that underlie all languages and that, ultimately, define what is a possible human language .
therefore, my incredulity arises from two principal claims : ( one ) the influence of the physical and cultural environment in which languages are developed has a limited scope for explaining the structure of languages, including their main patterns of typological variation, and ( two ) such studies do not lead to a satisfying report of what a human speech is, from a cognitive and biological perspective, but quite, they take us back to a traditional ( and incomplete ) opinion of language as a strictly cultural phenomenon .

Comparing Languages and Species

Following August Schleicher, the first major linguist to address the analogy between languages and species suggested by Darwin, I will assume that “ not a word of Darwin ‘s need be changed here if we wish to apply this reason to languages ” [ Schleicher, 1863, p. 64 ( I quote from the English translation included in Koerner, 1983 ) ]. The rationality for my assumption is that in both cases the evolve objects are historically modified natural objects. This identification allows us to say that the process of linguistic change and that of natural development are formally alike, although substantially different ( for a review of different interpretations of the analogy between languages and species, see Mendívil-Giró, 2006, 2014 ).

Although respective proposals for establishing the specific terms of the comparison have been suggested ( for example, Croft, 2000 ), the most appropriate one for my aim is that formulated by Schleicher himself, in his revue of the german edition of the Origin of Species :
The species of a genus are what we call the languages of a family, the races of a species are with us the dialects of a language; the sub-dialects or patois correspond with the varieties of the species, and that which is characteristic of a person’s mode of speaking corresponds with the individual” ( Schleicher, 1863, p. 32 ) .
What Schleicher calls “ that which is characteristic of a person ‘s mood of speaking ” is the closest concept to the Chomskyan notion of I-language that could be formulated at that fourth dimension. Chomsky ‘s ( 1985 ) distinction between I-language and E-language was formulated to make net that the object of study of linguistics as region of cognitive science is not an external object, a shared code or a social institution, but a property of a speaker ‘s mind/brain. Adopting this point of watch, I argue that in the comparison between linguistic exchange and natural evolution the appropriate terms for comparison are as follows : the equivalent of the natural organism ( the individual ) is the I-language, while the equivalent of the species is a hardened of alike I-languages ( what is normally called a language ). therefore, in this context, a language such as spanish is just the set of I-languages of Spanish-speaking people ( i, of the people we identify as users of this room of speaking that we call spanish ), just as the natural species of tigers is nothing other than the set of organisms that we identify as tigers. In both cases the standard of boundary line, based on similarity, is diffuse and reasonably arbitrary : the criterion of fecund breed in natural species ( Mayr, 1942 ), and the criterion of reciprocal intelligibility in languages ( Dixon, 1997 ) .
central to this comparison is that both natural species and natural languages are groups of exchangeable individuals. A natural species is made up of “ sufficiently alike ” individuals. An orang-utan and a homo being have more in common than an orang-utan and a overawe, but all three belong to unlike species. We know that the greater similarity between an orang-utan and a human is due to the fact that their common ancestor is far more holocene ( about 6 million years ) than in the subject of humans and cows, which goes bet on hundreds of millions of years. A “ linguistic species ” ( i.e., a language in the normal use of the term ) consists of “ sufficiently alike ” individuals ( I-languages ). frankincense, the linguistic equivalent of the natural organism ( for example, a tiger ) is each person ‘s speech organ ( the I-language ). The linguistic equivalent of the natural species ( for example, Panthera tigris ) is the grouping of such language organs. And alike spanish and french are more alike than french and russian, but all three are different languages. We know that the greater similarity between spanish and french is due to the fact that their common ancestor is much more recent ( about 1,500 years ) than the ancestor they share with Russian ( about 6,000 years ) .
If an I-language is a person ‘s terminology organ ( his/her staff of language ), there are not around 6,000 languages in the world, but billions, equally many as there are people ( in fact many more, given that bilingual people have more than one I-language ). The lone thing that can be said to exist, from an internalist, cognitive, point of see, are those billions of I-languages. All else ( varieties, dialects, languages, families, etc. ) are outline constructs that we make by grouping I-languages according to their resemblances or their diachronic origins. The like is true in the biological region : what exist are the emerging states of topic that we call life forms, the organisms ( the billions of animals, plants, fungi, etc., living on the satellite ), whereas varieties, species, families, kingdoms, and so forth, are abstract constructs that we make on the footing of genetic and geomorphologic similarity and historic origins .
And just as we would not say that tigers are manifestations or realizations of the species of tigers ( which would have an freelancer universe ), it is not appropriate to say that I-languages are manifestations or realizations of the spanish or the russian linguistic process ( which would have an freelancer being in grammars, in dictionaries or in social communities ). The Chomskyan cognitive chemise had as a central dogma the affirmation that languages are not entirely external, sociable objects that humans learn, use and convey from coevals to generation, but are in fact different ( historically modified ) states of the same lyric faculty, a particular impute of human cognition. similarly, natural organisms are different ( historically modified ) states of the same biochemical phenomenon : life sentence ( see Moreno and Mendívil-Giró, 2014 for a exploitation of these ideas ) .
comparable to natural development in biological organisms, then, is the march of linguistic change in human languages. The assumption that follows, hence, is that the process of language development ( as a human faculty ) is part of natural development, and not part of linguistic switch. In other words, the summons of linguistic change is one that affects ( in diachronic time ) the systems of cognition we call I-languages, and has no sexual intercourse to the evolutionary processes that could give originate ( in geological time ) to the faculty of lyric. To avoid the “ unfortunate ambiguity ” ( cf. Hurford, 1992, p. 273 ) that expressions like language evolution have in English, I use the term linguistic change to refer to the march of historic variety in languages, and I will reserve the term evolution for biological changes, including the evolutionary emergence of the language staff ( an issue that I will not discuss here ). In this sense it is possible to affirm, following Berwick and Chomsky ( 2016, p. 92 ), that “ languages change, but they do not evolve. ” For arguments against the assumption that the summons of linguistic variety is partially of the march of terminology evolution, see Mendívil-Giró ( 2016 ) and Longobardi ( 2003 ), who clearly distinguishes between diachronic sufficiency and evolutionary sufficiency in terminology sciences .
The parallelism between natural evolution and linguistic change in fact goes beyond the interesting similarities that Darwin ( 1871 ) observed, and persists in the relevant spheres of eruditeness. Gould ( 2002 ) analyses in contingent the controversy between adaptationist, externalist, and functionalist evolutionary theorists ( using Gould ‘s, 1996 word picture of neo-darwinism ) and, on the early hired hand, anti-neo-Darwinist theorists ( such as Brian Goodwin, Stuart Kauffman, and Gould himself ). In linguistics excessively there is besides a parallel controversy, revolving around functionalist and non-functionalist theorists of lyric deepen ( see Lass, 1997 for a detail critical review, and for an argument against functional/adaptive models of linguistic transfer ) .
The drift in the functionalist, adaptive approach to linguistic change is contemporary to the emergence and development of the Prague School of Linguistics ( see Cercle Linguistique de Prague, 1929 ). I refer chiefly to the invention of terminology as a social institution in the avail of communication and to the preference for teleological explanations of linguistic deepen. It is relevant noting that the revival of teleological tendencies in the explanation of linguistic process transfer coincides in time and in orientation course with the egress in the twenties and thirties in the twentieth hundred of the Modern Synthesis of evolutionary theory. The new deduction implies an inclination to consider natural choice as the only motivative baron of natural development, which implies the estimate that every change must be adaptive. In my view, this vogue corresponds to functionalist approaches to linguistic change and to the more holocene tendency to consider languages as complex adaptive systems ( Kirby, 1999 ) .
Gould ( 1996 ) has described the fundamental deviation between the neo-Darwinist model and its alternatives making use of the metaphor of the billiard ball against Galton ‘s polyhedron. According to the neo-Darwinist point of position, an organism could be represented as a billiard musket ball in motion. Each time the prompt hits the ball there is a variable movement. There is a free variation that goes in all directions. The prompt hitting the ball would be natural survival, and the ball goes where choice drives it. This constitutes, in terms of Gould, an externalist, functionalist, and adaptationist evolutionary hypothesis. By contrast, the anti-neo-Darwinist point of opinion presents the metaphor differently. The organism would be as a polyhedron resting on one of its facets. Once the cue hits it, the prospects for switch are identical stiffen : it is a polyhedron, which has a certain internal structure that limits magnetic declination, so that sealed options are more likely than others and some are impossible, however interesting that might be from an adaptive bespeak of scene .
Of course, this is not the station to review the farseeing dispute over the think of and implications of the terminus adaptation in evolutionary theory, nor to reiterate the debate on the impart of previous history and the laws of nature “ on which natural survival was privileged to work ” ( Kauffman, 1993, p. 643 ). however, it is crucial to note that by adopting a cognitive target of view in the study of languages one can not ignore the hard-and-fast restrictions that the human genius and cognition inflict on the structural blueprint of languages, independently of those aspects susceptible to historic change ( and, therefore, candidates for possible processes of adaptation to the environment ) .
Gould characterized the controversy in evolutionary theory as follows :
In what ways does the skewed and partial occupancy of the attainable morphospace of adaptive design record the operation of internal constraints (both negative limitations and positive channels), and not only the simple failure of unlimited number of unconstrained lineages to reach all possible position in the allotted time?” ( Gould, 2002, p. 1053 ) .
And both options have an equivalent view in stream linguistic hypothesis. The internist and formalist overture ( characteristic of generative linguistics ) conceives languages as systems of cognition restricted in their crop of mutant by the structure of the human faculty of lyric ( i, as Galton ‘s polyhedrons ). This opinion correlates with a uniformitarian concept of speech diverseness and with a restrictive creation of linguistic change. The externalist and functionalist approach ( represented by cognitive-functional linguistics ) conceives languages as external cultural objects that owe their structure to the adaptation to speakers ‘ cognitive and communicative requirements ( i, as billiard balls ). This scene correlates with a less stiffen conception of linguistic exchange and with an stress on the diverseness of languages ( see Mendívil-Giró, 2012 for a follow-up of this controversy ) .
I will argue that what we know about how, and how much, languages can change in time and in sexual intercourse to the environment places us in the first scenario : i, one in which the human faculty of language rigorously channels the aspects and components of languages that can vary in time and space .

But What Changes When Languages Change?

According to Hauser et alabama. ( 2002 ) influential model, the human language staff could be conceived of as a building complex system minimally integrated by three components : a conceptual-intentional ( CI ) organization ( related to entail and interpretation ), a sensory-motor ( SM ) arrangement ( related to the percept and output of linguistic signals ), and a computational arrangement ( narrow Syntax, creditworthy for the creation of the syntactic structure that underlies linguistic expressions, and ultimately for the compositionality and productiveness of homo language ) .
Following later developments of this model ( Chomsky, 2007 ; Berwick and Chomsky, 2011, 2016 ), I will assume that the computational system has an asymmetrical relationship with the two “ external ” components ( CI and SM ), such that the computational system would be optimized for its interaction with the CI system, while the relationship with the SM system would be accessory or secondary. See number 1 .


Figure 1. The social organization of an I-language. For each component the traditional area of research is indicated. The main components of lyric are asymmetrically related. The conceptual-intentional ( CI ) system has a direct connection with the computational system and they form an inner speech of intend ( ILOT ). This ILOT is connected with the sensory-motor ( SM ) arrangement for linguistic process externalization. This connection is established through a lexical interface. The lexical interface changes historically during the process of transmission from generation to genesis .

It is then implied that the computational system is coupled with the CI system to form an internal language of thought ( ILOT ), one that would be basically homogeneous within the species, and the evolutionary design of which would not be for communication but for think. Chomsky has suggested that from an evolutionary charge of position “ the earliest stage of linguistic process would have been just that : a lyric of think, used internally ” ( Chomsky, 2007, p. 13 ) .
The joining of the ILOT with the SM system is what would allow the “ externalization ” of language for interaction and communication with others. Since the association of the ILOT with the externalization systems is buttocks or secondary, it would be precisely within this process that the principal source of the morphologic diversity among human languages would emerge :
Parameterization and diversity, then, would be mostly – possibly entirely – restricted to externalization. That is pretty much what we seem to find: a computational system efficiently generating expressions interpretable at the semantic/pragmatic interface, with Diversity resulting from complex and highly varied modes of externalization, which, furthermore, are readily susceptible to historical change ” ( Berwick and Chomsky, 2011, pp. 37–38 ) .
The joining of the ILOT with the SM system is what allows the externalization of language and, incidentally, what causes the being of different I-languages. The essential hypothesis is that the like ILOT underlies all languages, so that differences between them are not caused by differences in the CI, the computational, or even the SM systems ( which would be biologically conditioned ), but follow from differences in how the ILOT is connected to the SM arrangement. Let us suppose, to simplify, that the interface between the ILOT and the sensorimotor arrangement is a kind of “ vocabulary, ” i, a repertory of morpho-phonological formants that allow the externalization of the hierarchical syntactic-semantic representations ( produced by the computational system in its interaction with the CI system ) in the shape of chains of morphemes and phonemes ( or, if applicable, ocular signs ). The character of the lexical interface, then, is to transform abstract hierarchical structures into consecutive structures legible at the sensorimotor arrangement. A possible way to understand the format of this lexical interface would be in terms of the character of lexical entries postulated in alleged nanosyntax ( Starke, 2009 ) .
such a model predicts that the diverseness in I-languages is the consequence of variations in externalization, i.e., variations in the shape of the lexical interface represented in Figure 1. As shown in the diagram, the development of linguistic process in an individual implies the eruditeness ( the internalization ) of the “ lexical ” material necessity for communication, and it is precisely during this process that reanalyses can occur. A reanalysis is a mismatch in the grammar of two speakers between an internal representation and the linguistic expression produced by the SM organization. It can be seen as the equivalent of familial mutations in organisms .
Let us consider a simplified exercise : in contemporary English the future is expressed as a phrase ( I will love ) whereas in spanish it is expressed as a single bible ( Amaré ). According to the model presented, the fundamental syntactic structures of the two expressions are identical similar ( equally well as their mean ), while the geomorphologic ( and phonological ) structures are very different. however, what is now a boundary morpheme in the spanish future ( -é ) was an auxiliary verb in earlier stages of this terminology ( derived from the crude Latin phrase amare habeo “ I have to love, ” an alternative to the authoritative Latin synthetic class amabo “ I will love ” ). The transition from a idiom ( main verb + auxiliary ) to a son ( rout + affix ) at some point in the diachronic development of Romance necessarily implied a process of reanalysis ( a mutation ). Hence, and again to simplify, we could say that for speaker S1 expression E has the underlying structure Verb+Aux, whereas for speaker S2 the same formula E has the implicit in structure Root+Affix, i, loudspeaker S2 reanalyses formula E, conferring on it a different implicit in structure ( Root+Affix ) than that of loudspeaker S1 ( Verb+Aux ). In a sense, then, the I-language of loudspeaker S2 has a mutant, because the relationship between the elements of construction E and its underlying structure is different from that in the I-language of loudspeaker S1. The hearer ( or the child acquiring a linguistic process ) does not have immediate entree to the syntactic structure or to the semantic theatrical performance underlying a given formulation, but merely to the sound wave that externalizes it. The tax of the listeners ( or learners ) is to use their I-language ( including their own lexical interface ) to discover this structure by analyzing the audio wave received. In the ideal character, the structure that they get is identical to what the speaker had in mind. When this is not the sheath, we can say that reanalysis has occurred. So reanalysis is basically a decoding ( or skill ) error, and when this error ( this “ mutant ” ) is stabilized in the hearer ‘s I-language and is extended to other speakers, we say that there has been a linguistic change. The model predicts that changes happen in the lexical interface that materializes syntactic structures, not in the computational system itself. This position is coherent with the inertial theory of syntactic change ( see Longobardi, 2001 ; Keenan, 2002 ) .
On the early hand, in linguistic change, as in the case with lifelike evolution, one has to intelligibly differentiate the reasons why an initiation arises and the reasons why this initiation extends over a population over meter. There are many factors that might lead, for model, to the introduction or elimination of a particular acoustic have in a phonetic segment ( from climatic conditions to the presence of speakers of other languages ), but a linguistic change will only occur if that mutant extends to other individuals ( I-languages ), and this itself will lone happen if the speakers imitate the language of the innovators, and the innovations pass these on to subsequent generations. As Labov ( 1963 ) showed, the crucial agent in the choice of innovative variants, whether phonetic, geomorphologic, lexical, or syntactic, is not functional efficiency or cost of performance, but social prestige. Some authors ( for example, Croft, 2000 ) argue that innovations are functional/adaptive, i.e., they have a teleological motivation. But as Lass notes, “ unless a motivation is arbitrary, its execution ought not to subject to contingent factors like age, sex, prestige, etc. ” ( Lass, 1997, p. 364 ) .
Differences between languages ( such as differences between natural species ) are the result of transfer, but linguistic changes merely occur in the most superficial property of languages, those that are exposed to learning from the environment and are susceptible to historic reanalysis. In the lapp way, biological evolution importantly alters the form and structure of organisms, but does not modify the biochemistry on which they are built, this remaining unchanged since the emergence of the inaugural forms of life .

The Structural Typology of Languages Does Not Correlate with the Cultural Diversity of Speakers

even assuming that externalization patterns are the only thing that changes historically in languages, it could calm be argued that there is a great batch of room for magnetic declination and that, consequently, the structural diverseness of languages could reflect processes of adaptation to the environment. indeed, we know that luminary variation in the structure of languages does exist, although the model proposed in Figure 1 would rule out the kind of weakly restricted magnetic declination which some authors continue to advocate ( see Evans and Levinson, 2009 ; Mendívil-Giró, 2012 for a review ) .
The miss of correlation between different linguistic types and different aspects of human cultures is a firm controversy in favor of a restrictive sight of the notion of adaptation applied to human languages, and in favor of a non-exclusively cultural sight of what a speech is .
The parameters of linguistic structural variation that have always caught the attention of typologists are those of a morphosyntactic nature ( i.e., related to how the morphology of languages reflects the syntactic structure ). There are languages with case marking morphemes, and languages without them ; there are languages in which verbs are conjugated and agree with several arguments, and languages in which they do not ; there are languages in which heads precede complements, and languages in which this happens in invert ; and there are languages in which interrogative words move to the front of sentences, and languages in which they do not ( see Dryer and Haspelmath, 2013 for a general survey ). Between each of the mentioned options there is a complex image of average steps. For example, among the languages that morphologically mark grammatical relations between verbs and arguments ( either with cases or with agreement ), some follow the nominative-accusative convention ( formally grouping the subject and differentiating the direct object ) and others the ergative-absolutive traffic pattern ( formally grouping the subject of the intransitive verb verb and the aim, and differentiating the topic of the transitive verb verb ). Yet there are besides languages that are objective in certain tenses/aspects and ergative in others ( see Dixon, 1994 ). All such variation is compatible with the model set out in Figure 1, and a act of research programs are presently addressing the issues of geomorphologic typology based on differences in the externalization component ( e.g. Richards, 2016 ) .
What is relevant to us here is that, as Pinker ( 2007 ) has pointed out, “ the non-universal, learned, variable aspects of lyric do n’t fit into any meaningful purposive narrative about the surrounding culture. ” The causes of the changes that produce such variation are implicit in to linguistic structure itself, and to the mechanism of change ( reanalysis ). To quote Pinker once more, these changes “ are n’t region of any emblematic or teleological plan of the culture. ” Adapting Pinker ‘s words to our case above, we can say that there are ergative languages and accusative languages, but there are no ergative cultures and accusative cultures. As Baker suggests, “ indeed, there is no ecological regularity in how the major linguistic types are distributed around the populace ” ( Baker, 2003, p. 350 ) .
The assumption that there is a correlation between culture or worldview and the grammatical structure of languages is adenine previous as reflections on speech typology. In the past it was assumed that the degree of “ cultural evolution ” determined the degree of “ linguistic evolution. ” Thus, if we turn again to the character of ergativity, it was claimed that ergativity correlated with a miss of rationality : “ What for us is a true induce is for primitive man merely an event involving mysterious forces ” or “ barbarous man obviously feels that most events are not due to his own volition ” ( quoted by Seely, 1977, apud Dixon, 1994, p. 214 ). Dixon argues that by using the lapp data we could conclude that merely speakers of ergative languages have a true impression of representation, since only these speakers formally identify the agentive controversy ; he concludes that, “ in fact, there is no one-to-one commensurateness between grammatical scar and genial scene of the world ” ( Dixon, 1994, p. 214 ) .
even in more late times, there is no deficit of ( more sophisticated and fair ) proposals about the universe of covariation between culture and grammar, particularly relating grammatical complexity with cultural complexity, such as Swadesh ( 1971 ), Perkins ( 1988 ), or Everett ( 2005 ). Swadesh ( 1971 ) p. 49 ) mentions a correlation coefficient between inflectional categories and languages ‘ geographic and social extension. But this correlation, if it truly exists, does not reveal an adaptation of grammar to polish, but is credibly a consequence of morphologic simplification, distinctive of many alleged “ populace languages ” ( see section The Brain Internal environment : language Learning and Language Processing for discussion ). Perkins ( 1988 ) proposes a correlation between grammatical complexity and cultural complexity. He surveys in 50 languages several geomorphologic deictic features ( tense, person, deictic affixes ), syntactic devices related to the tease of reference ( determiners, relatives, conjunctions ), equally well as a measure of cultural complexity ( based on the size of settlements, the number of types of craft specialists, and social and political hierarchy astuteness ). Perkins finds a potent correlation coefficient that would imply a kind of “ linguistic evolution ” : languages of complex cultures have few deictic affixes and many syntactic devices. however, Nichols applies her methods to these data and points out that these correlations “ may actually reflect only incidentally coincident macroareal linguistic distributions and have no ultimate association to cultural complexity ” ( Nichols, 1992, p. 317 ). ( Everett, 2005 ) proposal on the cultural constraints in Pirahã ‘s grammar is not statistically significant, and the proposed correlation itself has been questioned ( see Nevins et al., 2009 ) .
The most fair ending, therefore, is that there is no correlation coefficient between the structural diversity of languages and the cultural diversity of speakers. The fact that one linguistic process, for model Mohawk, has more morphologic complexity than another, for example English, has no relation to the complexity of the culture in which those languages are spoken, or to the sophism of its literary custom, but simply depends on a chain of previous diachronic facts. The bound morphemes that characterize the building complex morphology of many languages are the consequence of the historical reanalysis of ancient free words. Yet the about invariable, morphologically childlike words that characterize other languages are frequently the solution of the loss of geomorphologic complexity, besides resulting from diachronic reanalysis. In both cases reanalyses, like familial mutations, are blind and random processes, and Darwin ‘s conclusions can be applied to them : “ There seems to be no more design in the variability of organic beings, and in the military action of natural choice, than in the course the wind blows ” ( Darwin, 1893/2000, p. 63 ) .
This ending has a solid empiric support. Both Nichols ( 1992 ) and Nettle ( 1999 ) quantitatively analyze linguistic diverseness in fourth dimension and space and, although with unlike samples and methodologies, they reach exchangeable conclusions : although there are social and geographic factors that correlate with linguistic diversity and with the density of languages, there is no correlation between typological structural diversity and external factors. As Nettle points out : “ Structural diverseness [ … ] shows no overall practice and no correlation with other types of diversity ” ( Nettle, 1999, p. 137 ) .
nettle suggests that some extralinguistic factors, such as the size of the actor’s line community, could be related to the preservation of less frequent typological configurations ( for exemplar, OS word order, with the object preceding the subject ). The argumentation is based on the premise that infrequent types are less optimum in functional terms. This affirmation is doubtful, because running optimality is defined in sexual intercourse to the greater or lesser frequency ( I consider the relative between processing and grammar in part The Brain Internal environment : speech Learning and Language Processing ). If we ignore that problem, Nettle ‘s hypnotism is interesting. In this sheath the idea is that, as it happens in population genetics, the effects of random drift are greater when the population is little. But even in this case, it can not be said that there is a correlation between linguistic types and extralinguistic factors, i.e., it can not be said that small groups of speakers favor the development of certain linguistic types, nor that there is a causal relationship between a little group of speakers and the subject position in the sentence. note that it could besides be argued ( what seems more probably ) that the possible causal agent of the maintenance of an infrequent structural type in a given invest is the isolation that defines small groups of speakers, isolation that would protect that group from the influence of speakers from other languages ( word order is a grammatical feature of speech identical prone to diffusion ; see Dixon, 1997 ). What this font shows is that the size of groups of speakers can influence the dynamics of linguistic changes, something absolutely coherent with the model presented hera, but that does not allow to affirm that a sealed geomorphologic feature ( the OS order ) is an adaptation to a certain type of linguistic context ( the size of the community of speakers ) .
Nichols ‘ ( 1992 ) conclusions on the historical development of linguistic diversity are besides very relevant in this context :
This survey has uncovered no evidence that human language in general has changed since the earliest stage recoverable by the method used here. There is simply diversity, distributed geographically. The only thing that has demonstrably changed since the first stage of humanity is the geographical distribution of diversity” ( Nichols, 1992, p. 277 ) .
If the generation of the structural diversity of languages were the leave of adaptive processes to non-linguistic aspects ( and not a continuous drift within a restrict purpose space ) we should expect some kind of progression in the diachronic change of languages, such as we observe in early cultural institutions ( politics, art, skill, or engineering ), but this is not the character .
Although geomorphologic types of languages do not correlate with the types of societies and cultures that populate our satellite, it is still possible to see how certain courtly aspects of languages can be explained as processes of adaptation to the environment within the process of linguistic transfer. however, prior to this we need to determine what is understood by environment and what aspects of a speech are medium to it .

What is The Environment to Which the Variable Parts of Languages Would Adapt?

sol far I have assumed a generic impression of environment, as formulated in the leit Motiv of the Research Topic in which this contribution is included ( “ to explore the possibility that some aspects of the structure of languages may result from an adaptation to the natural and/or human-made environment ” ). I have shown that the claim that there is covariation between morphosyntactic typology and aspects of the environment ( indeed defined ) is empirically decrepit, something that is reproducible with the prediction made by the stage model of what I-languages are, and what their margin of variation is .
The diagram in Figure 1 represents any I-language ( i.e., the equivalent of a natural organism ). As I have pointed out, it is obvious that every I-language has a varying part ( the externalization part ), consequently susceptible of adaptation to the environment ( although to a lesser degree than it is assumed in models that think languages as strictly cultural objects ). But from this point of view, the impression of environment can not be the same I have been using. What is the linguistic process external medium to which these variable parts could have adapted ?
It is not a elementary question. The structure of Figure 1 may be interpreted as a sandwich, so that alone the out layers would be susceptible to contact with the environment. frankincense, we could consider that the CI and SM systems are “ more external ” than the computational system. The CI region of any language may be in contact with the pillow of the conceptual arrangement of people, so that it would then be expected that certain aspects of the physical, social, and cultural environment in which people develop and live can have an influence on the range of available concepts and notions. This would explain a relatively fiddling expression of the adaptation of languages to the environment, that of the substantive vocabulary ( Regier et al., 2016 ). In a acculturation with highly develop technology there will be words and phrases to denote scientific instruments, techniques, and concepts not found in languages spoken by hunter-gatherer communities, which, on the other hired hand, would have areas of the dictionary relating to wildly occurring food, animals, and methods of survival unrecognized in the languages of modern urban communities. Changes in acculturation, engineering, and life style often lead to changes in the lexical inventory that we require in casual life. When a club moves from a rural to an industrialized life, the most widely used lexical inventory besides changes. In this area, as pointed out by Ladd et aluminum. ( 2015 ), respective quantitative studies have shown that there is a correlation between environmental factors ( latitude, extremist violet radiation ) and the size of the lexical repertoire of color terms. But the differences in the type of conceptual elements that have specific lexical expression are not related to the morphosyntactic structure of languages. indeed, languages spoken by purportedly elementary societies, hunter-gatherer societies, often have greater morphosyntactic complexity ( greater “ adulthood ” in the sense used by Dahl, 2004 ) than many european languages such as English or Romance languages .
On the other side of the sandwich, we have a sensory-motor organization, which in oral languages corresponds to the vocal-auditory system. It is conceivable that sealed aspects of the physical environment may bias the kind of sounds most used in some languages ( see Everett et al., 2016 ), but again there would be very circumscribed effects on the morphosyntactic social organization of languages .
so, which environmental factors could have molded the historical roll of the morphosyntactic systems of languages ? It is quite possible that such factors do not exist or have a fallible effect, since the structural typology seems to be relatively isolate from the semantic and material dimension of languages and does not seem to fit them. But if we were to look for them, the place to start is within the brain .

The Brain Internal Environment: Language Learning and Language Processing

According to the mannequin I have described here, the object of sketch, from a cognitive position, is not that of languages understood as social institutions, but the I-languages that occupy in the minds/brains of individuals. In this context it is imperative that we recall that the only environment with which “ mental organs ” are in target contact is the brain itself. If there is an “ external ” medium to which I-languages can adapt, it must be home to the mind/brain .
It may be argued that many of the most celebrated changes that have been documented in the history of languages have contact with other languages as a crucial factor. And, indeed, it is indisputable that speech contact has much more effect on linguistic phenotypes than the social or physical environment in which people live. But languages do not come into address contact within the physical environment or in society, but only in the brains of speakers. Language A can only have influence on linguistic process B if the speaker of B has some kind of cognition of language A. In our terms we could say that the development of a new lexical interface can affect the previous lexical interface, which can alter the linguistic emissions that the new generation of speakers will use to develop their own lexical interface .
natural development is only possible thanks to the replica of organisms, and linguistic switch is only possible thanks to the transmission of languages from generation to generation. much of the social organization of an I-language is transmitted from parents to children along with the rest of their biological endowment, but obviously the variable parts of linguistic process are learned ( internalized ) from environmental linguistic stimuli. As I have already noted, this is the phase in which mutations in the lexical interface can occur. These mutations, depending on their range of transmission, can give raise to linguistic changes and, ultimately, to what we see as a different speech. The undertaking of the child who learns a linguistic process is to reproduce in her mind/brain the lexical interface of her interlocutors, a typically insecure ( “ abductive, ” californium. Andersen, 1973 ) procedure that is at the footing of linguistic change .
As Dahl ( 2004 ) has shown, the usual dynamics of linguistic change produce an addition in morphosyntactic complexity ( maturity ) astir to a certain limit, and thereafter such complexity tends to be maintained. The degree of maturity of a linguistic process is measured in terms of the quantity of structures involving a previous derivational history, i.e., non-universal processes that can only be explained by long previous evolutionary chains, such as inflectional and derivative instrument morphology, internalization, the being of phonological shade, character cross off, or ergativity. however, we might note that according to the model presented in figure 1 this lifelike increase in linguistic complexity actually amounts to an increase in the complexity of the lexical interface, not the whole speech itself. In this sense, no languages are more complex than others, but there are languages with more complex lexical interfaces than others. This is an important difference. The luminary grammatical differences between, on one extreme point, Georgian and, on the other, Tok Pisin, do not imply differences in the deeply layers of structure ( basically the CI system and the computational system ), but quite differences in the historic evolution of their externalization components. The proof of this is that the two languages serve their users in carrying out the lapp cognitive and communicative functions .
The initial intuition here is simple : the more prior uninterrupted history, the greater morphosyntactic complexity, and frailty versa. In fact, McWhorter ( 2011 ) argues that the lifelike country of a language, i.e., when no drastic disturbances in its transmission from generation to genesis have occurred, is “ highly complex, to an extent that seems extreme to speakers of languages like English ” ( 2011, p. 1 ). It seems clearly that the brain of human children is able to internalize lexical interfaces a complex as those of native american english languages or Caucasus languages, typical examples of “ ripen ” systems in Dahl ‘s common sense. Neither the brains of early organisms nor the brains of the majority of human adults are as effective in the internalization of arbitrary systems of gender and noun classifiers, agreement patterns, or far-out cases ( not to mention phonological systems ). consequently, McWhorter hypothesizes that whenever we find languages with low degrees of morphosyntactic complexity it is because such languages have been interrupted in their normal collection of complexity ; i.e., languages with relatively depleted degrees of complexity “ owe this express to second-language acquisition in the past ” ( McWhorter, 2011, p. 2 ). In this category we could include languages like English, Romance languages, Persian, Mandarin Chinese, and Indonesian. Compared to other, refer languages ( such as Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, or Baltic ) these languages ( which McWhorter calls Non-Hybrid Conventionalized Second-Language Varieties ) are characterized by a loss of complexity that reveals testify of widespread second-language learn in the past. In fact, Lupyan and Dale ( 2010 ) and Bentz and Winter ( 2013 ) show quantitative tell showing that languages spoken by many second language speakers tend to have relatively humble nominal case systems compared with languages with first gear proportions of L2 speakers. According to this model, creoles are extreme point cases of the same phenomenon : “ where complexity has been lost to a radical degree, we can assume that the terminology was born in a situation in which adult learning was universal ” ( McWhorter, 2011, p. 2 ). These cases of suboptimal transmission would consequently be clear examples in which the brains of adult learners have operated as an environmental gene to which some parts of languages have adapted .
Another mind home potential source of modeling forces for morphosyntactic systems can be found in terminology use in real time ( see Newmeyer, 2005, for a conciliatory synthesis on the division of labor movement between linguistic and march principles in grammar development ). The model I have presented stipulates that only the externalization part is subject to change and, consequently, to variation. It is therefore expected that processing principles ( both in language production and perception ) have a remarkable function in the structure and dynamics of externalization systems ( i, in the geomorphologic mechanism of syntax realization ), precisely because these systems are relevant to the use of language for communication. In fact, language march principles ( see Hawkins, 2004, for a very denotative model ) play their role by relating these two components ( the computational organization and the lexical interface of Figure 1 ) .
barely by way of illustration, I will consider Bickel et aluminum. ( 2015 ) regarding the development and perseverance of ergative systems in relative to universal process preferences. Using experimental testify, Bickel et alabama. ( 2015 ) propose that there is a universal principle that favors the work of an initial overlooked NP ( in nominated or absolutive case ) as an agent ( as in John sold a car ). When the respite of the prison term shows that this overlooked NP is not an agentive subject ( as it would be in an ergative lyric, which marks the subjects of the transitive verb ), they observed an event-related potential ( N-400 ) signaling a reanalysis of the function of the first NP ( for exemplar, as a affected role argument ). Bickel et alabama. hypothesize that this principle is “ species-wide and freelancer of the structural affordances of specific languages ” ( Bickel et al., 2015, p. 2 ) and that, as such, “ the principle favors the development and maintenance of case-marking systems that equate base-form cases with agents quite than with patients ” ( Bickel et al., 2015, p. 2 ), i.e., nominative-accusative systems over ergative-absolutive ones. Using a large database of linguistic changes in assorted terminology families ( 617 languages in total ) they note that of the two possible historic changes, ergative > accusative or accusative > ergative, languages show a clear diagonal toward the former :
Languages tend to avoid ergatives when they evolve over time: if a language has ergative case marking, it is more likely to lose than to keep it, and if a language lacks ergative case marking, it is unlikely to develop it. To be sure, ergative cases can arise and be maintained for a while, but the probabilities of this are always lower than the probabilities of avoiding ergatives” ( Bickel et al., 2015, p. 18 ) .
If Bickel et aluminum. ‘s conclusions are correct, we would again have a clear exercise of how a language-external ( but mind-internal ) divisor can condition the adaptation of languages in their processes of change. however, this besides leads us to an significant decision, one at the heart of our deliver discussion : even though a general principle of processing exerts a measurable blackmail on linguistic systems, the inertia of the linguistic process ‘s previous history is adequate to of overcoming it, showing that morphosyntactic structure is stubbornly immune to external adaptive pressures, even though they are inner to the mind/brain and purportedly universal .
It is important to note that ergative systems are mature systems in Dahl ‘s feel, which would besides explain, at least in part, both the unequal statistical distribution of the two types of languages, and the historical bias documented by Bickel et alabama. The relevant fact for us here is that a linguistic process like Basque, which is in full ergative, shows no symptoms of maladjustment and remains amply functional for its users. More relevant silent, there are processes of historic development of ergativity ( otherwise, ergative languages would never have existed ), which show that grammatical structure is largely immune to the influence of external ( i, non-grammatical ) factors. actually, a recent synthesis of the inquiry on process costs of ergativity in Basque ( Zawiszewski, 2017 ) concludes that there are no fundamental differences in the mechanisms underlying work in languages with different case marking systems :
In general, the electrophysiological pattern found when processing ergative case violations corresponds to that revealed during similar case violations in accusative languages (…) and thus indicate that the mechanisms underlying language comprehension are comparable across languages with a different case morphology.” ( Zawiszewski, 2017, p. 706 ) .


If we adopt McWhorter ‘s theory, we could say that adult brains have influenced the diachronic development of some homo languages to a decisive extent. From an externalist view of languages, it could be said that some languages have adapted to ( non-flexible ) senesce brains, simplifying their historical accretions and rendering themselves easier to be learned. But from the internalist target of view, this instruction is unsatisfactory. The externalist approach tends to identify languages with their lexical interfaces, and this recognition, at least in separate, is behind the different taste of the degree of adaptation of languages to the environment. From an internalist period of see, the notion of adaptation of languages to their environment is only acceptable in a weak sense. According to my argument, weak means that merely relatively superficial aspects of languages can be explained as adaptations to extralinguistic reality. I do not intend to conclude that statements such as the following are faulty :
[L]inguistic differences, from sounds to grammars, may also reflect adaptations to different environments in which the languages are learned and used. The aspects of the environment that could shape language include the social, the physical, and the technological” ( Lupyan and Dale, 2016, p. 1 ) .
Of class, as reflected in the model of Figure 1, every language has a cultural part ( internalized from the environment ) that is susceptible to change and, consequently, to vary in relation to external factors ( i.e., adaptation ). however, statements like the previous one indicate that this process of adaptation is sufficient to explain the social organization of languages and their typology, and that stopping point is what I have tried to put into interview in this contribution .
many and divers external and internal factors have left their mark on languages, specially in their systems of externalization, but I do not believe that this in itself allows us to claim that the structure of languages is basically a matter of adaptation to the environment .

Author Contributions

The writer confirms being the lone contributor of this workplace and approved it for publication .


The present research has been funded by the spanish AEI and Feder ( EU ) to grant FFI2017-82460-P.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The generator declares that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or fiscal relationships that could be construed as a likely conflict of interest .


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