Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE ( © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 08 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The field of linguistics is concerned with the scientific study of language and its structure. Human language provides an unbounded range of discrete and distinct messages. These messages are produced voluntarily under cortical control, and are not bound to the presence of particular stimuli. The mechanism behind the unboundedness of language is based on two facts, which include that two distinct discrete combinatorial systems interact to allow for an unlimited set of messages grounded in a manageable inventory of meaningful sounds. One subsystem combines members of a small set of individually meaningless sounds according to the phonological pattern of the language into meaningful words, which are in turn combined by a quite distinct subsystem, the language's syntax, into phrases, clauses, and sentences. The recursive, hierarchical nature of such combination is the basis for its open-ended expressive capacity. Certain behavior that is learned or culturally transmitted may be selectionally advantageous under the conditions in which the organism finds itself. Selection may then operate to favor individuals who are able to learn the advantageous behavior rapidly and efficiently. The learned behavior may itself alter the characteristics of the environment within which selection occurs favoring its acquisition even more. Computer simulations have suggested that structure sensitivity can plausibly be expected to arise in communication.

Keywords: human language, phonological pattern, language syntax, learned behavior, communication

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.