discontinuity theories
Definition - Theories about the evolution of language that are based on the notion that the human language capability appeared suddenly during the course of human evolution.

For example, Noam Chomsky argues that a single chance mutation occurred in one individual approximately 100,000 years ago, triggering the "instantaneous" emergence of the language faculty in "near-perfect" form.

Chomsky's argument runs as follows:

(1) According to evolutionary theory, all biological changes in a species arise from random genetic changes in a single individual which then spread throughout its breeding group.

(2) To create a language faculty, the only change needed in the human brain was the ability to construct and process recursive data structures in the mind (i.e. Merge).

(3) It follows from the above that the development of the language faculty is abrupt (i.e. saltational) because there is no way to gradually transition to a mind that is capable of processing recursive data structures from one that isn't.

(4) Thus it follows that the language faculity appeared as a sudden mutation in human evolution.



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