From icons to symbols: Some speculations on the origins of language


Journal Article

This paper is divided into three sections. In the first section we offer a retooling of some traditional concepts, namely icons and symbols, which allows us to describe an evolutionary continuum of communication systems. The second section consists of an argument from theoretical biology. In it we explore the advantages and disadvantages of phenotypic plasticity. We argue that a range of the conditions that selectively favor phenotypic plasticity also favor a nongenetic transmission system that would allow for the inheritance of acquired characters. The first two sections are independent, the third depends on both of them. In it we offer an argument that human natural languages have just the features required of an ideal transmission mechanism under the conditions described in section 2. © 1986 D. Reidel Publishing Company.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Brandon, RN; Hornstein, N

Published Date

  • June 1, 1986

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 1 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 169 - 189

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1572-8404

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0169-3867

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1007/BF00142900

Citation Source

  • Scopus