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Biology can give us a basis for talk, but it is up to us how we talk, and it is up to us what we say. Suppose there had been exactly one primordial language with its own syntax and lexicon. We know from historical linguistics that it would have evolved into different dialects, all of which would be conventional. In a sense the Roman Empire gave its subjects a common language, but over two thousand years they evolved into contemporary French, Portuguese, Spanish, Romantsch, etc. So even assuming one biologically determined language, the free will of language speakers would have evolved the Ur-Sprache into any number of conventional dialects, where “conventional” implies both arbitrariness and normativity.

Biology can give us a basis for talk, but it is up to us how we talk, and it is up to us what we say. Suppose there had been exactly one primordial language with its own syntax and lexicon. We know from historical linguistics that it would have evolved into different dialects, all of which would be conventional. In a sense the Roman Empire gave its subjects a common language, but over two thousand years they evolved into contemporary French, Portuguese, Spanish, Romantsch, etc. So even assuming one biologically determined language, the free will of language speakers would have evolved the Ur-Sprache into any number of conventional dialects, where “conventional” implies both arbitrariness and normativity.

John R. doc Page 30 1/18/20065 If language is biologically based, then why is it that we speak so many different languages? If evolutionary biology gave us the capacity for language, why did it not give us a single language which all humans could speak? Humans have, with minor variations, the same way of seeing because they all have the same visual apparatus, but they certainly do not have the same way of speaking. Why not? The answer derives from the fact that speaking is a voluntary activity, perhaps the most paradigmatic form of the human freedom of the will, and where free voluntary actions are concerned, people perform these actions in their own free voluntary ways.

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