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Vol. I • 1978

Overdesign As A Model For A Language
Dennis Farrell

There is widespread evidence to substantiate the contention that language is a designed or created communicative faculty, with accompanying complexity. The purpose of this paper is to present evidence to support the overdesign model and question the evolutionary viewpoint.

Overdesign is a concept which states that a capability is created with more than is necessary for its functioning. An entity would "demonstrate a remarkable combination of extremely efficient and economical organization on the one hand, and incredible potential for functional flexibility on the other".'

Linguists uphold the design model, probably a natural inference based on existing evidence. Chomsky, a well-known linguist and an evolutionist, says that we are specifically designed" to learn language.2 Wilson, a creationist, calls speech both "species specific and species universal" to human beings.3 Linguists use these quotes to describe a "mechanism" that is unseen, but their inferences are based on the observable. Hockett has identified some unique design features of human language: sound is internally reinforced, that is, there is feedback; we possess interchangeability, or the ability to receive and transmit; we have semanticity, which is translating meaningful symbols into sounds; we have arbitrariness to transcend physical and tonal characteristics; we can be discrete, that is, sound and meaning of language may differ; we displace, i.e. our memory of the past in speech may be spatially removed; we are specialized in that our responses, and not energy, are significant; we have openness, that is, we can create new sentences. Humans, of course, retain tradition; prevarication allows us to skillfully lie and speak nonsense; linguists epitomize our linguistic reflectiveness, or our ability to discuss our own language; and finally, we can learn other languages.4 Designed capability seems necessary to produce these variations, because communication of thought and meaning via symbols is so intricate.

If language is designed, it seems reasonable to propose that a natural linguistic complexity would result. The alternative would be an evolutionary development of simple animal sounds to complex human language. Later, this paper will show that language (grammar) had no previous "simpler" forms. Note that our proposition is not so much that man possesses language complexity, but rather, that this complexity results from design. Chomsky claims that human language complexity is "remarkable".5 Rules of grammar bear this out very well; and consequently no language is simple.6 Not only rules, but the child's language abilities and our overall use of language support a designed complexity. Even primitive tribes speak complex languages which in most cases are more grammatically complicated than civilized languages.7 Thus the evidence of language complexity in human beings supports the language design model. Because of the vastness of the topic, the present paper will not consider the subject of communication in animals. However, it may be necessary to state that though animal communication systems are vastly less complex than human language, careful examination of them would no doubt also reveal rich evidence of design. Recent efforts by psychologists to teach rudiments of human language to apes are extremely interesting and have revealed some dramatic results. These results are the consequence of rich design and programming on the part of the highly intelligent and dedicated scientists who designed and implemented the training program. It seems inconceivable that such results could come about by anything other than carefully controlled and intelligently designed procedures. Such results remind us of the importance of intelligent design requirements not only in the mature functioning of human language, but also in the acquisition of language by the child as well. This will be discussed in detail later. Nothing even approximating the directed and highly sophisticated language training program for apes is present for the human child as he learns to talk.

Returning to the topic of human language it can be said that if design is "species specific", then it would be found in all languages or "tongues". There should be universal similarities reflecting the design features in operation. Haugen calls language "the universal gift of tongues" and "the gift of Ianguage".8 Notice the word "gift" used by an evolutionist. Wilson states that language is innate because all languages are "similarly designed" and fall within an "extremely narrow range of structural possibilities....9 Design, a word continually used in the literature by the linguists, is implied in the word "innate". The following universal similarities explain Wilson's aforementioned narrow range of structure: all languages contain vowels and, at most, seventy phonemes; vowels always separate consonants; every grammar has a system; every language has "substitutionary" (pronouns) and "function" (in, or) words; all languages "borrow" from others and show a lack of distinction; nouns and verbs are universal; all languages have phonological systems of their own.10 Structural similarity supports an underlying design original to all languages. The alternative hypotheses is that languages somehow (accidentally) became similar for some communicative reason. The design model seems to be more credible. Even word synthesis and its creativity is a universal human phenomenon.11

Chomsky infers an underlying universal abstraction which probably involves thought or "intention". It transcends communication12 and fits our design model. An "intention" is more basic than structural similarities because it may direct the structure. A universal abstraction may also explain our ability to learn other languages; in other words, it may presuppose a design that would accommodate the speaking of any language. The similarities of languages would also facilitate multi-language learning since they are based on design and positive transfer could occur.

There is, however, something that supports not only universal design, but also its complexity. This is the presence of a universal grammar (UG) and its concomitant rules. Do not mistake this UG for the abstraction that Chomsky spoke of. The abstraction, an "intent", probably directs the usage of the UG rules. If there is a UG, then it follows that there is a basic innate design, since all languages contain rules.

History reveals a belief in universal grammatical rules, an inference which seemed inescapable as far back as the 17th and 18th centuries, when linguists searched for rules in language that would show the universality of human thought.13 Both Boethius of Dacia and Thomas of Erfurt considered all languages basically similar, probably because of their beliefin a UG. They claimed that "...all languages reflected certain immutable categories of the human mind and the world...~ It is quite possible that these "immutable categories" were their terms to describe design. Chomsky is the leading contemporary spokesman of the UG. He says that the mind contains "an autonomous system of formal grammar, determined in principle by the language faculty and its component UG".15 The UG is good design evidence because of its function, and because of the fact that it is already contained in the mind.

Exactly what is the UG, and how does it illustrate complexity? UG is a "system of principles" consisting of "general properties of (any) human language" and is therefore necessary for the acquisition of language. These principles are not acquired by learning, which means that the language "faculty" is both universal and "innate".16 Chomsky presents a viable argument for design with words like "faculty" and "innate", emphasizing that these principles are not acquired by learning. The correct use of grammar rules when speaking is so complex that is seems to presuppose design.

Complexity of principle usage is more specific. Two components constitute language, namely, structure and meaning. "Deep structure" is universal and related to meaning or "intent". "Surface structure" is phonetic (language sounds), containing its own rules according to the language (nationality).17 "Deep structure", then, would embody the universal principles which govern the transformation of meaning into sounds. By obeying universal grammatical rules, phonetics would emerge within the given grammatical framework of a particular language, or surface structure. This transformation would explain why we are always correct in our word order. For example, a person would never say, "I home went." Because of the UG or deep structure, he says the sentence correctly. The phonetics simply disclose which language and therefore which rules are involved. Chomsky's UG may represent a design by which these transformations, or any other grammatical processes, can occur.

Despite the present language diversity, there is historical evidence pointing to a common source of all languages. This evidence would not only bolster the design model, but also explain the universal similarities. This common "ancestry was probably an original language, because languages, by comparison, contain similarities that go beyond accident, tradition, or "linguistic universals".15 However, one "linguistic universal" that suggests a first language is the similarity of the world's "phonological systems", which supposedly places their date of original oneness forty or fifty thousand years ago. To some commentators this similarity constitutes a problem because present diversity cannot account for it.19 While the postulated date is no doubt inaccurate, there is the important inference of origin due to similarities.

Finally, the "universality of the human mind" is emphasized as indicative of a common "ancestry". In 1786 Sir William James claimed that Sanskrit, Greek and Latin shared a common "ancestry", but linguists investigated "language similarities" instead of studying the mind itself.20 Perhaps in pre-evolutionary days linguists were not biased when inferring the reason(s) for language similarities.

A study of the origin of language might naturally bring to mind a genetic relationship. There is disagreement on this point, however. Watkins states that languages are related genetically.21 Haugen, on the other hand, says there is no "biological descent" because there are no language genes.22 Here, Haugen seems to contradict his own contention that language is a "gift" which subsequently would be passed 0?' down to all descendants from the first members of the species.

Haugen also says that language diversity and resulting phenomena are a consequence of scattering and learning.23 He claims that we learn language as a product of the specific phenomena within a cultural group after its scattering; that is, we learn according to our environment and tools of learning. But his reference to the word "gift" and the evidence of language acquisition contradict this learning hypothesis. Furthermore, he infers an original language by recognizing that a historical study reveals similarity, and no other explanation for this similarity suffices.24 Despite language diversity which will be explained as non-contradictory to design, biological descent could and probably did occur. If there was an original language, it is reasonable to infer an original design for mankind to utilize this language "gift"; however, later something occurred (i.e. Babel) to cause the present diversity of languages.

Universal complexity offers further support for the design model. Everyone will agree that language is not simple. One of the most complicated language capabilities, and therefore strong evidence for design, is the process of naming, another example of Chomsky's expert analysis of human language.

According to Chomsky, naming involves categorizing parts of a whole, an "arrangement", within the framework of the Gestalt, or "spatiotemporal contiguity". For example, we can see the parts of an automobile scattered on the ground as meaningless; but once these parts are assembled ("arranged"), they can be categorized or named. The Gestalt allows a perception of the figure-ground relationship or of the parts into the completed whole (automobile). Chomsky uses the example of a painting of a floral arrangement, which the artist names according to his perception (expression of an idea). Naming, then, is assigning the object named to a category or framework of objects or concepts.

Naming includes more than this assignment, since reality is more than parts of a whole. Chomsky refers to "natural kinds" or objects, which represent facts of experience. We must somehow categorize objects and do so by defining these "natural kinds" according to function, constitution, and origin. A shoe is so named because it arbitrarily fits our concept of what it does, is, and whence it came. The latter may also involve word etymology, indicating a relationship to the roots of words. The naming process includes novelties which we name according to "essential properties" within the object. Regardless of the word we choose, naming depends on how we conceptualize the extraneous facts.

The ability to form concepts underlies the naming process. Chomsky suggests an "internal structure" for conceptualization to occur. Our perception of reality leads to formulation of a concept, and subsequently to a category from which a name (symbol) appears.25 The process of naming is indeed complex, and the language design model would account for the seemingly simple task of assigning a word to an object.

One of the most remarkable feats of the human being is the acquisition of language. A child can accomplish this complex task at an early age. There is good evidence for a designed capability, because children all over the world learn language in the same way. In fact, there are "striking uniformities" in other cultures that follow grammatical principles.26 Even deaf, blind and mentally impaired children can learn language.27 These facts lead to an inference of " innate tendencies",28 which indicates design.

Although we speak of language as learned, it is really acquired as something "natural", reducing the necessity of rewards.29 It is learned in the sense that the child learns the language of his nationality, with its peculiarities. The ability to speak requires no formal or systematic training of any kind in the behaviorist sense.30 The environment (rewards) may modify speech, as in the example of idioms or naming, but has little influence on rules of grammar. The child simply needs interaction with the environment (people) to release language's "inherent capacity"32 which is made up of grammatical rules.

Cultural differences are lacking in the first four years of the child's life. During this period children universally show their ability to iterate and comprehend sentences they have never heard. If this is the case, learning (imitation and reinforcement) cannot offer a plausible explanation. Some of the specific evidence contraindicating grammatical learning follows.

The key to understanding how design supersedes training in language acquisition is the child's grammatical usage. Chomsky theorizes that children inherently know how to use language because of a "structure dependent rule".33 To understand this "rule", recall Chomsky's earlier reference to "deep structure" which contains the universal principles to transform meaning into sounds according to grammatical rules. Apparently, deep structure, because it depends upon the structure dependent rule, would allow the proper use of grammar when the child speaks. An example of proper unlearned rule usage is the morpheme. Morphemes are the smallest meaningful units of speech. As the child develops linguistically, morpheme use follows a specific "grammatical" pattern that produces a logical word order. "See boy", "see boy run", "see boy run street are always grammatically correct. The child will never say "boy see", unless that was the intent, or "run boy see", etc. Past participles provide further evidence of the child's inherent knowledge of rules. Saying "teached" instead of taught follows the rule. The child will always make this "mistake" which is more logical than "taught". The latter does not follow the rule and must be learned as a peculiarity of language. Plurals also obey the rules as in the example of "thems" instead of them. Not only does "thems" follow the rule, but them is a collective noun which makes little sense to the child. No matter how much we try to teach (reinforce) the child to say "taught" or "them", he will always follow the rules until about five years old when reinforcement dominates. Design explains language acquisition very well because training does not enhance or decrease grammatical usage. In other words, an alternative explanation is lacking.

Another indication of the design feature in language acquisition is the child's rapid progress. In the first four years comprehensibility increases from 26 to 99.6%. The child adds fifty new words per month between the ages of three and five resulting in a large vocabulary, while increasing parts of speech and grammatical complexity. Children utilize all parts of speech in adult sentence forms. Sentence length increases from four words at age two to eight words at age four. Articulation increases from 32% at age two to 100% at age eight. Biehler says these facts have eluded explanation so far.34 "Eluded" is right, because they suggest an overdesign. Rapidity supports the design model and refutes any behavioristic explanation. The child would have to learn too much too quickly. The child's early use of the naming device also exemplifies linguistic complexity. His first words are nouns, which indicates the cognitive importance of categorizing or naming objects of experience (reality). Parental reinforcement determines the appropriate words. Wilson calls this early categorizing of the environment "labelling".35 The appearance of nouns as first words could manifest the early activation of a designed device. Later, when various verb types surface, grammar rules develop.

Chomsky has inferred a structure which may explain language acquisition. Presently, there is no "satisfactory explanation" of grammar acquisition, but evidence of a universal grammar imply a language acquisition device (LAD).se According to Chomsky, this "grammatical device is universally applicable" and results in "grammatical competence" in attaining any language. The proposed model is:

linguistic data LAD grammatical competence. This device may explain why all children speak grammatically correctly.37 It would govern the structure dependent rule that directs correct usage of grammatical rules. This device also qualifies as a designed structure for the purpose of language acquisition.

(We will publish the conclusion of this article in the next issue of the CSSHS Quarterly in which the author presents evidence from experts in linguistics (evolutionists) which supports biological language design.)


1 Paul D. Ackerman, "Considerations Regarding a Model for Experimental Psychology," Acts and Facts, Impact Series no.50, 6, no.8 (August 1977), tt.
2 Noam Chomsky, Reflections On Language (New York: Pantheen Books, 1975), p.4.
3 Clifford Wilson, "Some Aspects of Human Communication Compared and Contrasted with Animal Communication," Unpublished Personal Notes, p.9, All of Dr. Wilson's articles were obtained through personal correspondence.
4 Clifford Wilson, "The Silent Ape," Extracts from forthcoming publication, pp. 2-3.
5 Chomsky, p.4.
6 Clifford Wilson, "Compiled Notes," Unpublished Pervonal Notes, 1975, p. I.
7 Henry Morris, Scientific Creationism (San Diego: Creation Lift Publishers, 1974), pp.184-85.
8 Finar Haugen, "The Curse offlabel," Daedalus, 102, (Summer 1973), 48.
9 Wilson, "Compiled Notes," p.8.
10 Ibid, pp. 23-24
11 Wilson, "Attempts To Teach Language to Apes," p.8.
12 Chomsky, pp.64-65.
13 Morton Bloomfield, "The Study of Language." Daedalus, 102, (Summer 1973), 9.
14 Ibid,p.7.
15 Chomsky, p.43
16 Ibid,pp.Il,28,118,219.
17 Paul Mussen, John J. Conger. and Jerome Kagan, Child Development and Personality, 3rd Ed (New York: Harper and Row, 1969), pp. 249-50.
18 Calvert Watkins, "Language and Its History," Daedalus, 102, (Summer 1973), 99.
19 Wilson, "Compiled Notes," p. 24, citing Charles F. Hocketi, Universak of Language, p. 28.
20 Bloomfield, p.9.
21 Watkins, p. 99.
22 Haugen, pp.48-49.
23 Ibid,p.48.
24 Ibid,p.49.
25 Chomsky, p.44.
26 Robert Biehler, Child Development: An Introduction, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1976), p.314.
27 Wilson, "Compiled Notes," p.2.
28 Bieliler, p. 434.
29 Wilson, "Attempts To Teach Language To Apes," p.7.
30 Chomsky, p.4.
31 Clifford Wilson, "Language: Is It Acquired or Learned? A Study Based on the Wilson Language Abilities Guide," Unpublished Personal Notes, p. I.
32 Biehlen p 314.
33 Chomsky, pp.31-32.
34 Biehler, p. 435.
35 Wilson, "Attempts To Teach Language to Apes," p.7.
36 Mussen, p. 254.
37 Ibid.

"Overdesign As A Model For A Language"
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