Michael Tomasello


Michael Tomasello
Constructing a Language

A Usage-Based Theory of Language Aquisition
Harvard 2003


Michael Tomasello
The Cultural Origins of HUMAN COGNITION
Harvard Univ. Press 2000
Tomasello1: Keywords: - Australopithecus - Homo sapiens - They began to use symbols to communicate and to structure their social lives, including not only linguistic symbols but also artistic symbols in the form of stone carvings and cave paintings - resulting eventually in some populations creating such things as written language, money, mathematical notation, and art. - cultural transmission - cumulative cultural evolution - the ratchet effect - social learning - human beings are able to pool their cognitive resources in ways that other animal species are not - human cultural learning: imitative learning, instructed learning, and collaborative learning - ability of individual organisms to understand conspecifics as beings like themselves who have intentional and mental lives like their own - linguistic and other communicative symbols - theory of mind - human cognitive ontogeny - universal features of uniquely human cognition -


Keywords: - Human cognition - primate cognition - Human beings share the majority of their cognitive skills and knowledge with other primates - including both the sensory-motor world of objects in their spatial, temporal, categorical, and quantitative relations and the social world of behaving conspecifics in their vertical (dominance) and horizontal (affiliative) relationships - powerful cognitive adaptation : ability and tendency of individuals to identify with conspecifics in ways that enable them to understand those conspecifics as intentional agents like the self, possessing their own intentions and attention, and eventually to understand them as mental agents like the self, possessing their own desires and beliefs - ratchet effect - cognitive modules - uniquely human form of social cognition - I thus do not see the point of trying to modularize human cognition, and the many different proposals for what the human module menu looks like attest to the practical difficulties of doing this as well.

Tomasello207:Keywords: - innate cognitive modules - cognitive skills of language and complex mathematics are like chess: they are the products of both historical and ontogenetic developments working with a variety of preexisting human cognitive skills, some of which are shared with other primates and some of which are uniquely human - my account for how a single human cognitive adaption could result in all of the many differences in human and nonhuman primate cognition is that this single adaptation made possible an evolutionarily new set of processes, that is, processes of sociogenesis - symbolic forms of communication to emerge - human cognitive ontogeny - imitation - The new and powerful forms of social cognition that result open up the cultural line of human development in the sense that children are now in a position to participate with other persons in joint attentional activities and so to understand and attempt to reproduce their intentional actions involving various kinds of material and symbolic artifacts. And, indeed, this tendency to imitatively learn the actions of other persons is a very strong one - Children's mastery of one very special cultural artifact-language-has transforming effects on their cognition. Language does not create new cognitive processes out of nothing, of course, but when children interact with other persons intersubjectively and adopt their communicative conventions, this social process creates a new form of cognitive representation - all, the tired old philosophical categories of nature versus nurture, innate versus learned, even genes versus environment are just not up to the task - they are too static and categorical - if our goal is a dynamic Darwinian account of human cognition in its evolutionary, historical, and ontogenetic dimensions.

Cognitive Linguistics

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