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The green beards of language
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3245-0850
2013 (English)In: Ecology and Evolution, ISSN 2045-7758, Vol. 3, no 4, 1104-1112 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Language transfers information on at least three levels; (1) what is said, (2) how it is said (what language is used), and, (3) that it is said (that speaker and listener both possess the ability to use language). The use of language is a form of honest cooperation on two of these levels; not necessarily on what is said, which can be deceitful, but always on how it is said and that it is said. This means that the language encoding and decoding systems had to evolve simultaneously, through mutual fitness benefits. Theoretical problems surrounding the evolution of cooperation disappear if a recognition system is present enabling cooperating individuals to identify each other if they are equipped with green beards. Here, I outline how both the biological and cultural aspects of language are bestowed with such recognition systems. The biological capacities required for language signal their presence through speech and understanding. This signaling cannot be invaded by false green beards because the traits and the signal of their presence are one and the same. However, the real usefulness of language comes from its potential to convey an infinite number of meanings through the dynamic handling of symbols through language itself. But any specific language also signals its presence to others through usage and understanding. Thus, languages themselves cannot be invaded by false green beards because, again, the trait and the signal of its presence are one and the same. These twin green beards, in both the biological and cultural realms, are unique to language.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 3, no 4, 1104-1112 p.
Keyword [en]
Chloropogonology, cooperation, Hamilton's rule, language, reciprocity
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-90378DOI: 10.1002/ece3.506ISI: 000317599300026OAI: diva2:627573


Available from: 2013-06-12 Created: 2013-06-03 Last updated: 2014-10-28Bibliographically approved

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Lindenfors, Patrik
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