Is human linguistic communication different only in degree from other animal communication, or is it different in kind? If it is different in kind, can this difference best be attributed to one or a small number of core features? If so, what are these features? What role does the code itself play in characterizing human linguistic communication and what role is attributable to its communicative function?
To answer these questions, I argue the following: Human linguistic communication is in fact different in kind from other animal communication; its difference can be attributed to two main factors, one coded and one communicative, that lie at the core of the phenomenon of human language; and these two factors are a discrete combinatorial system and the ability to infer others' mental states. I demonstrate that these two factors limit the function of systems which do not display them in ways that are characteristically different from the function of human linguistic communication.
This work serves to update existing research on language features by integrating insight from the cognitivist research paradigm that currently prevails in linguistics. It also integrates two traditionally separate areas of inquiry, those of the functioning of the language code itself and of the inferential mechanisms that humans employ when using language for communication, to provide a more comprehensive theory on the nature of human linguistic communication.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. January 2012. Major: Linguistics. Advisor: Jeanette Gundel. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 102 pages.
Lucast, Ellen Irene.
The interaction of structural and inferential elements in characterizing human linguistic communication..
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