from month 06/2015

Cats, tacs and kunvenshuns

First of all, thanks to Thom for his excellent book. I agree completely that pragmatics has been under-represented in discussions of the evolution of language (with the notable exceptions you mention). I was, I recall, the only pragmaticist speaking at Evolang in Paris in 2001. I recall also that I ...

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Natural language and the language of thought

I found Thom’s book extremely illuminating, insightful and enjoyable. I learned a great deal from it, and look forward to this online discussion, from which I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more. One point where I was left feeling rather frustrated was in the brief discussion of Chomsky’s views ...

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One explanation to rule them all?

The field of language evolution, it seems to me, is a microcosm of the evolutionary behavioral sciences more generally, in the following sense: you can maintain more or less any position you want, even in the face of data. Is there a Universal Grammar? Some are convinced there is and others are ...

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Inferential communication and information theory

Speaking Our Minds is a timely book that very effectively frames many of the current important problems facing researchers interested in the nature of language and communication. Too few scholars today are worried simultaneously about evolutionary psychology and pragmatics, and ever since my ...

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Intending to speak our mind, and speaking our mind

Thom Scott-Phillips' contribution consists in further grounding Dan Sperber and Deidre Wilson’s Relevance Theory into an evolutionary and cognitive framework for the advent of human language. I take it that the central thesis of Scott-Phillips’ book is that language is not an organ. Rather, it ...

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Alignments across disciplines

By Ira Noveck & Tiffany Morisseau This book left a very positive impression on us both. It is practically a manifesto for clear thinking about doing proper Gricean analyses in applied areas of communication. Speaking our minds (SOM), which describes and reshapes the theoretical landscape in ...

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Combinatoriality and codes

I read this book as part of an interdisciplinary reading group at Cardiff. As we found, there’s a lot to agree with in the book, but the commentary below focuses on two points that we found confusing. Combinatorial communication Chapter 2 claims to be about the impressive expressive power ...

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Enjoyable, but doesn’t solve the mystery

I have read Thom Scott-Philips’ book with great pleasure, but also with a very critical eye. It is extremely well written— I have read most of it during long train rides and had no difficulties concentrating on it. For someone who is as easily distracted as myself that says quite something. I ...

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Communication, culture, and biology in the evolution of language

Speaking Our Minds is an enjoyable book, providing an excellent survey of some of the perennial and current issues in the field of language evolution, as well as providing a clear summary of Thom’s position on the central role of ostensive-inferential communication in language origins. I hope ...

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No communication without reputation, no reputation without communication

I chose to organise an ICCI book club around Speaking Our Minds because it is an exceptional book in more than one way. It ties together two research traditions¬—the pragmatic approach to linguistics and the Darwinian legacy in biology—, that lie at the heart of our field. It does so in a ...

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Cultural attraction, “standard” cultural evolution, and language

Speaking Our Minds (SOM) was a great pleasure to read. This slim book provides even a non expert like myself with an accessible but, at the same time, in-depth treatment of language evolution. Scott-Phillips proposes us a coherent and, according to him, exhaustive, picture of the origins and ...

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Key notions in the study of communication

I am enthusiastic about Thom Scott-Phillips’ book. It integrates cutting-edge research in several fields, from biology to pragmatics, relevant to the study of the evolution of human communication and it redirects the whole enterprise in a new, much more promising direction. This, however, is not ...

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