Animal communication systems and “the Rubicon” in the theories of the origin of language

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The modern theories of the origin of language have reached the parity in the argumentation. And now the knowledge of this sphere is expressed with the antinomies. It means that the conflicting approaches are veritable to the same extent. In the cognitive science there is the so-called “Rubicon problem”, which is unsolvable without breaking of the consistency of the one of the conflicting theories. Some researches recognize the deductibility of faculty of language from the animal communication system, whereas others do not recognize it. Both parties have the strong argumentation. This article deals with the ethological, semiotic and psychological approaches to language as abstract symbolic system on the one hand and as social and communicative activity on the other hand. In the context of the “Rubicon problem”, Vygotsky’s works obtain the “novel sound”. The heritage of the ideology-driven Soviet psychological school is relevant again even for the Western scientists. The social and cultural-historical determination of the faculty of language allows bridging the gap between cognitive-ethological and nativist approaches. We argue the idea of under-determination of the ontological status of language as the biological communicative system: the polemic between gradualists and saltationists is far from its completion.

About the authors

P N Baryshnikov

Pyatigorsk State Linguistic University

Department of History, Social Sciences, Philosophy, Oriental Studies and Theology


Copyright (c) 2016 Philosophy

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