講師 ： Stephen C. Levinson, MPI for Psycholinguistics
演題 ： "Spatial cognition, empathy and language evolution."
In this lecture I will argue that language evolution may have been closely tied to spatial cognition. First, we are natively poor navigators, compared to many animal species. This may have to do with the recruitment of the human hippocampus for things other than spatial navigation, namely memory and language. That cooption may have left its mark deep on the conceptual structure of language, providing primitives differently utilized differently in different languages. Reasons for that recycling of neuronal circuitry may have to do with the natural preoccupations in human communication with networks, both spatial and social. Above all, gesture? a spatial modality ideal for indicating spatial concepts? seems to have anteceded spoken language in human communication.
A crucial additional ingredient, explaining why other animals haven’t gone the same route, is the development of an interactional infrastructure for communication, which is exclusive to humans. The generalization of empathetic communication out of the maternal-infant niche may have played a crucial role here. Increasing evidence about the deep history of language seems compatible with this story.