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Lexicalisation and the origin of the human mind.

Hughes, Thomas J. and Miller, J. T. M. (2014) 'Lexicalisation and the origin of the human mind.', Biosemiotics., 7 (1). pp. 11-27.


This paper will discuss the origin of the human mind, and the qualitative discontinuity between human and animal cognition. We locate the source of this discontinuity within the language faculty, and thus take the origin of the mind to depend on the origin of the language faculty. We will look at one such proposal put forward by Hauser et al. (Science 298:1569-1579, 2002), which takes the evolution of a Merge trait (recursion) to solely explain the differences between human and animal cognition. We argue that the Merge-only hypothesis fails to account for various aspects of the human mind. Instead we propose that the process of lexicalisation is also unique to humans, and that this process is key to explaining the vast qualitative differences. We will argue that lexicalisation is a process through which concepts are reformatted to be able to take on semantic features and to take part in grammatical relations. These are both necessary conditions for a grammatical mind and the increased ability to express conceptual content. We therefore propose a possible explanans for the discontinuity between humans and animals, namely that merge with lexicalisation (and consequently semantic features and grammatical relations) is a minimal requirement for the human mind.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Biosemiotics. The final authenticated version is available online at:
Date accepted:22 January 2013
Date deposited:No date available
Date of first online publication:23 September 2013
Date first made open access:No date available

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