By Catarina Dutilh Novaes

Formal languages are generally considered as being in particular mathematical gadgets and as generating a better point of precision and technical complexity in logical investigations due to this. but defining formal languages solely during this manner deals just a partial and constrained clarification of the effect which their use (and the makes use of of formalisms extra more often than not in different places) truly has. during this ebook, Catarina Dutilh Novaes adopts a wider perception of formal languages so one can examine extra extensively what precisely is occurring whilst theorists positioned those instruments to take advantage of. She seems on the background and philosophy of formal languages and specializes in the cognitive impression of formal languages on human reasoning, drawing on their old improvement, psychology, cognitive technology and philosophy. Her wide-ranging examine should be necessary for either scholars and researchers in philosophy, good judgment, psychology and cognitive and desktop technological know-how.

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One such feature is the early maturation of the language behaviour in humans, whereas traits that are selected for on the basis of sexual selection in other species typically only appear around puberty. Fitch’s own preferred explanation for the evolutionary emergence of human languages relies on the concept of kin selection. The idea is that if the main evolutionary issue is not the survival of a particular individual but rather the survival of its genes, an individual who is seemingly altruistic towards its own close kin is effectively protecting its own genetic material, or in any case genetic material very close to its own.

Rather, the bone of contention pertains to the level of structural complexity that can be attributed to actual uses of spoken language by humans (as opposed to the competence level of what humans could do if they wanted to), and to the centrality of grammatical 9 See Chapters 5 and 6 for more on the ‘neuroscience of meaning’. The very idea of a formal language 35 competence (as opposed to lexical competence) in the mastery of a human spoken language (Tomasello 2003: chap. 1). Partisans of the Chomskyan hypothesis of the existence of a ‘universal grammar’ famously claimed that recursion is a universally present feature in all human spoken languages, and furthermore that it is unique to human languages (Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch 2002); it represents the core of human linguistic competence.

One theory for the evolution of language which does not rely on the purported communicative function of human spoken languages is based on the concept of sexual selection. It relies on ‘an implicit assumption that complex language could increase mating success directly, by making the speaker attractive to potential mates’ (Fitch 2005: 211). Fitch then goes on to argue convincingly against this hypothesis; one of his arguments is that human language considered as a trait does not display the same features of traits in other species which clearly have been selected for on the basis of sexual selection (the quintessential example being the tail of the peacock).

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