Archive for September 12th, 2007

Higher Social Skills Are Distinctly Human, Toddler And Ape Study Reveals

Taken from

Apes bite and try to break a tube to retrieve the food inside while children follow the experimenter’s example to get inside the tube to retrieve the prize, showing that even before preschool, toddlers are more sophisticated in their social learning skills than their closest primate relatives, according to a report published in the 7 September issue of the journal Science.

Chimpanzees participated in a comprehensive battery of tasks comparing their physical and social cognitive abilities to those of 2-year-old human children. 

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Linguistic tone and genetics

The relationship between genes and language is probably the most difficult and delicate area of the language evolution debate. On the one hand, your individual language is clearly not chosen by your genes (a child can learn whichever language it is raised with) but the capacity for language has always been assumed to have a clear genetic basis, even if the Chomskian linguists have made no effort to explain how it evolved. The discovery of the FOXP2 gene gave hope that some part of the genetic basis of language had been found, but as yet there have been no major genetic breakthroughs to explain the Language Acquisition Device. What little examination there has recently been on the genetic basis for language, has begun to focus on the idea that there is a far for sophisticated relationship between the genetic and the linguistic layer. In this interesting model, subtle iterated changes can manifest in language over generations, motivated by slight genetic variations. A brilliant new paper by the Edinburgh LEC’s own (and rather lovely) Bob Ladd and Dan Dediu has really put the cat amongst the pigeons by finding a correlation between allele frequency in two genes and the proportion of tonal languages.

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September 2007
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