Just a note: A very much enjoyed reading this whole post. I just snipped a relevant part below (and repaired, if I was writing in doing so, your list):

On Jan 20, 2013, at 11:07 AM, Melroch <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> At the risk of angering any
> Chomskyans I believe that there are four factors enabling and inclining
> humans to create and use language, none of them originally, primarily or
> exclusively linguistic in nature:
> 1) The ability to think with and in terms of symbol and symbolized which
> are distinct yet arbitrarily linked. Symbolic thinking for short.
> 2) The ability to build up symbols from smaller parts which are themselves
> arbitrary and asymbolic. I call this 'double symbolization'.
> 3) The typically human way of vocalization.
> 4) The ability to usefully combine (2) and (3) aka double  articulation.
> To these I should probably add the ability to replace (3) with something
> else if you aren't capable of it, an area I alas know very little of.
> Humans are probably just the only species where all of these abilities are
> present.

I think this is a good list, but I would add one item:

5) The capacity for linguistic analogy (which itself is built off the capacity for abstract analogy).

This is really what allows languages to expand, in my opinion. Someone can hear a sentence like:

My mother was drinking water.

And generalize:

My X was Ying Z.

And then also:

My X was Ying.


X was Ying.


And the patterns themselves are used to generate new patterns, which hold if the hearer can figure out how the pattern was generated—and if it can be, there's a chance they'll use it and repeat it themselves, and so forth.

David Peterson
LCS President
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