The narrow faculty of language: What is it, who has it, and how is it defined?

Sławomir Wacewicz



The evolution of language, as a research area, is special in many ways. One of those ways is its inherently interdisciplinary status with its usual afflictions, i.e. the terminological barriers to fruitful communication of researchers with different backgrounds. The FLN/FLB concept, created with intent to improve this condition, has now become an influential but fundamentally confused bit of terminology, complicating rather than clarifying dialogue across disciplinary borders. The suggested overall conclusions are twofold. Firstly, researchers into language evolution should not accept the FLN/FLB distinction at face value, but rather refer meticulously to primary literature. Ultimately, it is hoped that the FLN/FLB distinction will be supplanted by a more compelling one, driven by a more coherent research agenda. Until then, FLN1, i.e. FLN as defined in Hauser et al. (2002), should probably be used, both for reasons of priority and theoretical usefulness. As a second point, it is astonishing that such a major conceptual inconsistency between the two definitions of FLN/FLB has remained essentially unnoticed or ignored. This may be due to the proclaimed “clarification” of this issue in Fitch et al. (2005); however, as has been demonstrated, this “clarification,” based on demonstrably false claims, only added to the confusion. It may signal a need for a radical top-down examination and discussion of the terminological-conceptual inventory of the evolution of language before this field develops its own tertiary literature.

Theoria et Historia Scientiarum

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