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Office of Neuroscience Research > Neuroscience Calendar > HPSM Brown Bag: Stephen Downes (University of Utah)

HPSM Brown Bag: Stephen Downes (University of Utah)

"Is there a Gene for Language?" 


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When: Wednesday, April 26, 2017 at 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM
Where: Life Sciences 202 (Danforth Campus)

Abstract:

There are many disparate models of language evolution.  A large subset of these models are guided by the assumption that language is unique to humans.  This assumption leads researchers to present elaborate selective regimens suited to the production of such a unique complex trait.  There are however many elements considered key to language production in humans present in other animals.  For example, FoxP2 is a gene that is deeply conserved and influences vocalization in several non-human animals.  I assess some recent work on FoxP2 from different biological approaches, including medical genetics, population genetics and Evo/Devo.  FoxP2 has been dubbed the “language gene” by some researchers and this construal gives support to those who want an account of language evolution as the emergence of a complex trait via adaptation.  I cast doubt on the construal of FoxP2 as the language gene and pose problems for this type of thinking about the evolution of language.

For more information about the History and Philosophy of Science & Medicine (HPSM) Brown Bag Series including abstracts, click here.


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