The biolinguistic thesis states that language is a biological system internal to an individual of the species Homo sapiens sapiens for generating structured linguistic expressions over a potentially unbounded range; the design of the system is determined by a genetic endowment, external stimuli, and natural laws. With such an expansive scope, the thesis can be thoroughly explored only through interdisciplinary enterprises—the organization of which is the desideratum of the Cambridge Biolinguistics Initiative (CBI). We welcome you to participate in this most exciting endeavor. (Continue this manifesto.)

26 January 2012

Meeting Monday 14th November

For our fifth meeting of term, instead of considering the theoretical issues surrounding linguistic nativism, which were the focus of the previous three weeks, we examined the link between genes and complex cognition. Any claim of nativism is presumably also a claim of genetic specification, but as we saw, the link between a gene and a cognitive phenotype is by no means simple. The paper for discussion was Simon Fisher's 2006 paper "Tangled Webs: Tracing the connections between genes and cognition," which considers, among other cases, the much reported FOXP2 gene, demonstrating that its link to language is nowhere near as straightforward as reported in the popular press. Thus the paper served as an introduction to modern genetic theory, and what it can and cannot tell us about cognition.

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