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What are Languages? A Biolinguistic Perspective

José-Luis Mendívil-Giró
Published Online: 2014-11-19 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/opli-2014-0005

Abstract

The goal of the present contribution is to explore what kinds of objects languages are from a biolinguistic point of view. I define the biolinguistic point of view as a naturalistic study of languages and I show that from this point of view, languages are human language organs, that is, they are natural objects. However, languages change over time; therefore, they are also historically modified objects. Considering that natural organisms are historically modified natural objects, I look for inspiration in evolutionary theory to better specify what kinds of objects languages are and how they change and diversify. I conclude that every language is a ‘unique evolutionary history’ within a restricted space of design. This conclusion means that although the structure of languages reveals aspects of formal elegance and aspects of functional efficiency, there are no arguments to state that these aspects are manifested more or less intensely in some languages than in others. Then their formal and functional aspects are part of what is common to all languages, while variable parts of language are a reflection of the essentially historical nature of the lexical interface between the components of our language organs.

Keywords: biolinguistics; linguistic theory; philosophy of language; parameters; language change; typology; linguistic diversity

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About the article

Received: 2014-06-10

Accepted: 2014-08-14

Published Online: 2014-11-19


Citation Information: Open Linguistics, ISSN (Online) 2300-9969, DOI: https://doi.org/10.2478/opli-2014-0005.

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© 2014 José-Luis Mendívil-Giró. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. BY-NC-ND 3.0

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