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HOW THE BRAIN EVOLVED LANGUAGE.Donald Loritz. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. Pp. 227. $45.00 cloth.

  • Frederick J. Newmeyer (a1)

Abstract

Loritz discusses the nature and evolution of language in the context of a connectionist approach to neural architecture, namely, Adaptive Resonance Theory (ART). Given the massive parallel processing inherent to ART, he argues that all of the mechanisms inherent to generative grammar, including discrete rules, stored grammatical representations, and so on, can be dispensed with. Loritz's “adaptive grammar” attempts to derive what have been considered to be grammatical universals from the structure of the human brain, in particular its short-term memory limitations. For example, so-called universal topic-verb order (p. 149) follows from “a deeper biological injunction to say (and do) topical things first, a ‘rule' which applies not just to conversations but to everything brains do. It is a corollary of evolution: the organism that doesn't do relevant things first simply doesn't survive” (pp. 150–151).

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