Binarism and linguistic complexity: an evolutionary perspective
Lund University/University of Belgrade
This presentation is two-fold. The first part explains the importance of
termed here as binarism (Toyota 2009), in the evolution of human language, and
part deals with the later stages in evolution in forming a complex linguistic
Different works on linguistic evolution often assumes the presence of nominals
initial stage in language (cf. Heine and Kuteva 2007 among others), and some
nouns turned into verbs to formulate a predicate. Once this noun-verb pair was
human language was ready to become more complex. It is possible to argue that
language has spent much of its evolution on creating this binary pair. In other
words, the way
down to the current complex linguistic structure can be easily achieved once we
noun-verb opposition in grammar.
Another feature concerning binarism is that it has to be broken to have a
For instance, lexical categories noun and verb can be augmented with adjective
The expressiveness in language can be dramatically improved by addition of these
but this will break the earlier binary opposition. Thus, languages need a stage
of binarism but
it is broken later as language evolved even further.
Thus, binarism is an indispensable stage in the evolution of grammar and its
absence is a useful indicator in later development.