Wednesday, September 11, 2013


The concept of exaptation has been pressed into service in discussion of the evolution of FL. Indeed, the idea that extant mechanisms can be recycled for novel uses lies at the heart of the minimalist project, IMO. This idea has been used by Dehaene to great effect in his account of reading and Jan Koster has, in the comment sections, been a strong advocate of this idea as applied to FL more generally.  At any rate, here is a nice popular article discussing some recent ruminations on exaptation that I ran across.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting article, thanks. My own contribution, if it deserves that name, is the idea that exaptation comes in two flavors: agentive and non-agentive. Non-agentive exaptation works via processes like natural selection and is the kind biologists are most familiar with. Agentive exaptation is what is called "application" in everyday language and involves an element of invention and a shared cultural record to preserve the fruits of invention (unique human attributes). An illustrative example is the function of the lungs in breathing and in trumpet playing. Both involve the same innate structure --the lungs-- but breathing is a non-agentive function while trumpet playing is of the agentive kind. Language is to a large extent agentive exaptation, although it might be something in between as a matter of co-evolution (i.e., natural selection 'rewarding' a particularly useful invention like language). In any case, I believe that Dehaene's "recycling" includes agentive exaptation and provides the right perspective for language because it leaves room for both rich innate structure and for a traditional, more socio-cultural view. Bingo!