On Sound-Meaning Correlation
Nirmalangshu Mukherji
May 2021

The intriguing fact about human language is that neither the sound systems nor the thought systems--technically called Sensorimotor and Conceptual-intentional systems--have any significant precedence prior to the emergence of the hominid line. So, a theory of language needs to explain where they came from and how they fell into place to create the conditions for unbounded generativity. In effect, language-theory needs to explain two novel factors in the evolution of human language: word-formation and word-combination. In this context, the recent proposal that the sound component of language is 'ancillary', and that language is basically designed for thought, is problematic. This is because the proposal turns the origin of the rich structure of human thought into a mystery since the units of human thought could not have been borrowed from, say, the apes. To look for an alternative explanation, we study Darwin's idea that (a) the sound system might have evolved in part from a pre-existing human music system, (b) the evolving sound systems might have 'acted on' rudimentary units of thought systems to turn them into words. We critically evaluate Darwin's picture. In the process, we locate the gaps in Darwin's story that must be filled to reach a more complete theory of language. The new version adds these line: "In that sense, sound-meaning corelations were internally required in the language system for the system to take off as a generative procedure. Externalization of thought was not a necessary feature of the device at all."
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/005472
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Kosta and Schlund (Eds.) Explanation and Prediction in Linguistics-CEP 2019, Peter Lang, 2021
keywords: language evolution, sound system, sound ancillary hypothesis, thought system, generativity, morphology, syntax
previous versions: v4 [November 2020]
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