Symbol grounding and the origin of language

Harnad, Stevan (2002) Symbol grounding and the origin of language. [Book Chapter]

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ABSTRACT: What language allows us to do is to "steal" categories quickly and effortlessly through hearsay instead of having to earn them the hard way, through risky and time-consuming sensorimotor "toil" (trial-and-error learning, guided by corrective feedback from the consequences of miscategorisation). To make such linguistic "theft" possible, however, some, at least, of the denoting symbols of language must first be grounded in categories that have been earned through sensorimotor toil (or else in categories that have already been "prepared" for us through Darwinian theft by the genes of our ancestors); it cannot be linguistic theft all the way down. The symbols that denote categories must be grounded in the capacity to sort, label and interact with the proximal sensorimotor projections of their distal category-members in a way that coheres systematically with their semantic interpretations, both for individual symbols, and for symbols strung together to express truth-value-bearing propositions.

Item Type:Book Chapter
Keywords:language, evolution, perception, categorization, learning, symbol systems, evolutionary psychology, origin of language
Subjects:Psychology > Cognitive Psychology
ID Code:2133
Deposited By:Harnad, Stevan
Deposited On:12 Mar 2002
Last Modified:11 Mar 2011 08:54

References in Article

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