From Sensorimotor Praxis and Pantomine to Symbolic Representations

Harnad, Stevan (2000) From Sensorimotor Praxis and Pantomine to Symbolic Representations. [Conference Paper]

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What lies on the two sides of the linguistic divide is fairly clear: On one side, you have organisms buffeted about to varying degrees, depending on their degree of autonomy and plasticity, by the states of affairs in the world they live in. On the other side, you have organisms capable of describing and explaining the states of affairs in the world they live in. Language is what distinguishes one side from the other. How did we get here from there? In principle, one can tell a seamless story about how inborn, involuntary communicative signals and voluntary instrumental praxis could have been shaped gradually, through feedback from their consequences, first into analog pantomime with communicative intent, and then into arbitrary category names combined into all-powerful, truth-value-bearing propositions, freed from the iconic "shape" of their referents and able to tell all. The attendant increase in speed and scope in acquiring and sharing information can be demonstrated in simple artificial life simulations that place the old and new means into direct competition: Symbolic theft always beats sensorimotor toil, and the strategy is evolutionarily stable, as long as the bottom-level categories are grounded in sensorimotor toil.

Item Type:Conference Paper
Keywords:language evolution, symbolic grounding, iconicity, imitation, iconicity, propositions
Subjects:Biology > Evolution
Linguistics > Historical Linguistics
Psychology > Psycholinguistics
ID Code:1619
Deposited By: Harnad, Stevan
Deposited On:19 Jun 2001
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54

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