Selected Publications

2017

  • Boeckx, C.. (2017). The language-ready head: evolutionary considerations. Psychonomic bulletin & review, 24(1), 194-199. doi:10.3758/s13423-016-1087-5
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF]
    This article offers a succinct overview of the hypothesis that the evolution of cognition could benefit from a close examination of brain changes reflected in the shape of the neurocranium. I provide both neurological and genetic evidence in support of this hypothesis, and conclude that the study of language evolution need not be regarded as a mystery.

    @article{boeckx2017,
    author="Boeckx, Cedric",
    title="The language-ready head: Evolutionary considerations",
    journal="Psychonomic Bulletin {\&} Review",
    year="2017",
    volume="24",
    number="1",
    pages="194--199",
    abstract="This article offers a succinct overview of the hypothesis that the evolution of cognition could benefit from a close examination of brain changes reflected in the shape of the neurocranium. I provide both neurological and genetic evidence in support of this hypothesis, and conclude that the study of language evolution need not be regarded as a mystery.",
    issn="1531-5320",
    doi="10.3758/s13423-016-1087-5",
    url="https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-016-1087-5"
    }

  • Marí, M., Martins, P. T., & Boeckx, C.. (2017). Srgap2 and the gradual evolution of the modern human language faculty. Biorxiv. doi:10.1101/143248
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF]
    In this paper we argue that vocal learning in Homo preceded the emergence of Anatomically Modern Humans. We build our claim on the evolutionary history of the SLIT-ROBO GTPase 2 gene (SRGAP2). The SLIT-ROBO pathway has been shown to have an important role in the context of vocal learning. Though the influence of particularly SRGAP2 in the emergence of this aspect of language has not gone unnoticed, recent results now allow us to articulate a mechanistic hypothesis of its role in the context of axon guidance. Specifically, SRGAP2C, a duplication of SRGAP2 crucially also found in Neanderthals and Denisovans, but not in extant mammals, inhibits the {\textquotedblleft}original{\textquotedblright} SRGAP2A, which in turn modulates the axon guidance function of SLIT-ROBO. This, we claim, could have played a role in achieving the critical cortico-laryngeal connection of the vocal learning circuit. Our conclusions support the idea that complex vocal learning could already have been part of the arsenal of some of our extinct ancestors.

    @article {mari_etal2017,
    author = {Marí, Maties and Martins, Pedro Tiago and Boeckx, Cedric},
    title = {SRGAP2 and the gradual evolution of the modern human language faculty},
    year = {2017},
    doi = {10.1101/143248},
    publisher = {Cold Spring Harbor Labs Journals},
    abstract = {In this paper we argue that vocal learning in Homo preceded the emergence of Anatomically Modern Humans. We build our claim on the evolutionary history of the SLIT-ROBO GTPase 2 gene (SRGAP2). The SLIT-ROBO pathway has been shown to have an important role in the context of vocal learning. Though the influence of particularly SRGAP2 in the emergence of this aspect of language has not gone unnoticed, recent results now allow us to articulate a mechanistic hypothesis of its role in the context of axon guidance. Specifically, SRGAP2C, a duplication of SRGAP2 crucially also found in Neanderthals and Denisovans, but not in extant mammals, inhibits the {\textquotedblleft}original{\textquotedblright} SRGAP2A, which in turn modulates the axon guidance function of SLIT-ROBO. This, we claim, could have played a role in achieving the critical cortico-laryngeal connection of the vocal learning circuit. Our conclusions support the idea that complex vocal learning could already have been part of the arsenal of some of our extinct ancestors.},
    URL = {http://biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/05/28/143248.full.pdf},
    journal = {bioRxiv}
    }

  • Theofanopoulou, C., Gastaldon, S., O’Rourke, T., Samuels, B. D., Messner, A., Martins, P. T., Delogu, F., Alamri, S., & Boeckx, C.. (2017). Comparative genomic evidence for self-domestication in homo sapiens. Biorxiv. doi:10.1101/125799
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF]
    This study identifies and analyzes statistically significant overlaps between selective sweep screens in anatomically modern humans and several domesticated species. The results obtained suggest that (paleo-) genomic data can be exploited to complement the fossil record and support the idea of self-domestication in Homo sapiens, a process that likely intensified as our species populated its niche. Our analysis lends support to attempts to capture the {\textquotedblleft}domestication syndrome{\textquotedblright} in terms of alterations to certain signaling pathways and cell lineages, such as the neural crest.

    @article{theofanopoulou_etal17,
    author = {Theofanopoulou, Constantina and Gastaldon, Simone and O'Rourke, Thomas and Samuels, Bridget D and Messner, Angela and Martins, Pedro Tiago and Delogu, Francesco and Alamri, Saleh and Boeckx, Cedric},
    title = {Comparative Genomic Evidence For Self-Domestication In Homo sapiens},
    year = {2017},
    doi = {10.1101/125799},
    publisher = {Cold Spring Harbor Labs Journals},
    abstract = {This study identifies and analyzes statistically significant overlaps between selective sweep screens in anatomically modern humans and several domesticated species. The results obtained suggest that (paleo-) genomic data can be exploited to complement the fossil record and support the idea of self-domestication in Homo sapiens, a process that likely intensified as our species populated its niche. Our analysis lends support to attempts to capture the {\textquotedblleft}domestication syndrome{\textquotedblright} in terms of alterations to certain signaling pathways and cell lineages, such as the neural crest.},
    URL = {http://www.biorxiv.org/content/early/2017/04/08/125799.full.pdf},
    journal = {bioRxiv},
    press = {<a href ="https://www.sciencenews.org/article/how-humans-maybe-domesticated-themselves" target="_blank">How humans (maybe) domesticated themselves.</a> <em>ScienceNews</em> 191(13): 26. July 8, 2017}
    }

2016

  • Boeckx, C., & Benítez-Burraco, A.. (2016). Editorial: components of the language-ready brain. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 762. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00762
    [BibTeX] [Download PDF]
    @article{boeckx2016,
    author={Boeckx, Cedric and Benítez-Burraco, Antonio},
    title={Editorial: Components of the Language-Ready Brain},
    journal={Frontiers in Psychology},
    volume={7},
    pages={762},
    year={2016},
    url={http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00762},
    doi={10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00762},
    issn={1664-1078}
    }

2015

  • Asano, R., & Boeckx, C.. (2015). Syntax in language and music: what is the right level of comparison?. 6, 942. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00942
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF]
    It is often claimed that music and language share a process of hierarchical structure building, a mental “syntax”. Although several lines of research point to commonalities, and possibly a shared syntactic component, differences between “language syntax” and “music syntax” can also be found at several levels: conveyed meaning, and the atoms of combination, for example. To bring music and language closer to one another, some researchers have suggested a comparison between music and phonology (‘phonological syntax’), but here too, one quickly arrives at a situation of intriguing similarities and obvious differences. In this paper we suggest that a fruitful comparison between the two domains could benefit from taking the grammar of action into account. In particular, we suggest that what is called “syntax” can be investigated in terms of goal of action, action planning, motor control, and sensory-motor integration. At this level of comparison, we suggest that some of the differences between language and music could be explained in terms of different goals reflected in the hierarchical structures of action planning: the hierarchical structures of music arise to achieve goals with a strong relation to the affective-gestural system encoding tension-relaxation patterns as well as socio-intentional system, whereas hierarchical structures in language are embedded in a conceptual system that gives rise to compositional meaning. Similarities between music and language are most clear in the way several hierarchical plans for executing action are processed in time and sequentially integrated to achieve various goals.

    @article{asano_boeckx_2015,
    author={Asano, Rie and Boeckx, Cedric},
    title={Syntax in language and music: what is the right level of comparison?},
    journal={Frontiers in Psychology},
    journal={6},
    pages={942},
    year={2015},
    url={http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00942},
    doi={10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00942},
    issn={1664-1078},
    abstract={It is often claimed that music and language share a process of hierarchical structure building, a mental “syntax”. Although several lines of research point to commonalities, and possibly a shared syntactic component, differences between “language syntax” and “music syntax” can also be found at several levels: conveyed meaning, and the atoms of combination, for example. To bring music and language closer to one another, some researchers have suggested a comparison between music and phonology (‘phonological syntax’), but here too, one quickly arrives at a situation of intriguing similarities and obvious differences. In this paper we suggest that a fruitful comparison between the two domains could benefit from taking the grammar of action into account. In particular, we suggest that what is called “syntax” can be investigated in terms of goal of action, action planning, motor control, and sensory-motor integration. At this level of comparison, we suggest that some of the differences between language and music could be explained in terms of different goals reflected in the hierarchical structures of action planning: the hierarchical structures of music arise to achieve goals with a strong relation to the affective-gestural system encoding tension-relaxation patterns as well as socio-intentional system, whereas hierarchical structures in language are embedded in a conceptual system that gives rise to compositional meaning. Similarities between music and language are most clear in the way several hierarchical plans for executing action are processed in time and sequentially integrated to achieve various goals.}
    }

  • Benítez-Burraco, A., & Boeckx, C.. (2015). Approaching motor and language deficits in autism from below: a biolinguistic perspective. Frontiers in integrative neuroscience, 9, 25. doi:10.3389/fnint.2015.00025
    [BibTeX] [Download PDF]
    @article{benitez_boeckx2015approaching,
    author={Benítez-Burraco, Antonio and Boeckx, Cedric},
    title={Approaching motor and language deficits in autism from below: a biolinguistic perspective},
    journal={Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience},
    volume={9},
    pages={25},
    year={2015},
    url={http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnint.2015.00025},
    doi={10.3389/fnint.2015.00025},
    issn={1662-5145}
    }

  • Benítez-Burraco, A., & Boeckx, C.. (2015). Possible functional links among brain- and skull-related genes selected in modern humans. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 794. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00794
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF]
    The sequencing of the genomes from extinct hominins has revealed that changes in some brain-related genes have been selected after the split between anatomically-modern humans and Neanderthals/Denisovans. To date, no coherent view of these changes has been provided. Following a line of research we initiated in Boeckx and Benítez-Burraco (2014a), we hypothesize functional links among most of these genes and their products, based on the existing literature for each of the gene discussed. The genes we focus on are found mutated in different cognitive disorders affecting modern populations and their products are involved in skull and brain morphology, and neural connectivity. If our hypothesis turns out to be on the right track, it means that the changes affecting most of these proteins resulted in a more globular brain and ultimately brought about modern cognition, with its characteristic generativity and capacity to form and exploit cross-modular concepts, properties most clearly manifested in language.

    @article{benitez_boeckx2015,
    author={Benítez-Burraco, Antonio and Boeckx, Cedric},
    title={Possible functional links among brain- and skull-related genes selected in modern humans},
    journal={Frontiers in Psychology},
    volume={6},
    pages={794},
    year={2015},
    url={http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00794},
    doi={10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00794},
    issn={1664-1078},
    abstract={The sequencing of the genomes from extinct hominins has revealed that changes in some brain-related genes have been selected after the split between anatomically-modern humans and Neanderthals/Denisovans. To date, no coherent view of these changes has been provided. Following a line of research we initiated in Boeckx and Benítez-Burraco (2014a), we hypothesize functional links among most of these genes and their products, based on the existing literature for each of the gene discussed. The genes we focus on are found mutated in different cognitive disorders affecting modern populations and their products are involved in skull and brain morphology, and neural connectivity. If our hypothesis turns out to be on the right track, it means that the changes affecting most of these proteins resulted in a more globular brain and ultimately brought about modern cognition, with its characteristic generativity and capacity to form and exploit cross-modular concepts, properties most clearly manifested in language.}
    }

  • Boeckx, C., & Benítez-Burraco, A.. (2015). Osteogenesis and neurogenesis: a robust link also for language evolution. Frontiers in cellular neuroscience, 9, 291. doi:10.3389/fncel.2015.00291
    [BibTeX] [Download PDF]
    @article{boeckx_benitez2015,
    author={Boeckx, Cedric and Benítez-Burraco, Antonio},
    title={Osteogenesis and neurogenesis: a robust link also for language evolution},
    journal={Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience},
    volume={9},
    pages={291},
    year={2015},
    url={http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fncel.2015.00291},
    doi={10.3389/fncel.2015.00291},
    issn={1662-5102}
    }

  • Boeckx, C., & Theofanopoulou, C.. (2015). Commentary on: labels, cognomes, and cyclic computation: an ethological perspective. Frontiers in psychology, 6, 784. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00784
    [BibTeX] [Download PDF]
    @article{boeckx_theo2015,
    author={Boeckx, Cedric and Theofanopoulou, Constantina},
    title={Commentary on: Labels, cognomes, and cyclic computation: an ethological perspective},
    journal={Frontiers in Psychology},
    volume={6},
    pages={784},
    year={2015},
    url={http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00784},
    doi={10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00784},
    issn={1664-1078}
    }

  • Theofanopoulou, C., & Boeckx, C.. (2015). Cognitive phylogenies, the darwinian logic of descent, and the inadequacy of cladistic thinking. Frontiers in cell and developmental biology, 3, 64. doi:10.3389/fcell.2015.00064
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF]
    There has been a reappraisal of phylogenetic issues in cognitive science, as reconstructing cognitive phylogenies has been considered a key for unveiling the cognitive novelties that set the stage for what makes humans special. In our opinion, the studies made till now have approached cognitive phylogenies in a non-optimal way, and we wish to both highlight their problems and propose ways to amend this. The inadequacy of current cognitive phylogenies stems from the influence of the traditional “linear cladograms”, according to which every seemingly new or more sophisticated feature of a cognitive mechanism, viewed as a novelty, is represented as a node on top of the old and shared elements. We claim that this kind of cladograms does not succeed in depicting the complexity with which traits are distributed across species and, furthermore, that the labels of the nodes of these traditional representational systems fail to capture the ‘tinkering’ nature of evolution. We argue that if we are to implement cognitive mechanisms in a multi-dimensional perspective, we should decompose them into lower-level, generic functions, which have the additional advantage of being implementable in neural matter, which produces cognition.

    @article{theo_boeckx2015,
    author={Theofanopoulou, Constantina and Boeckx, Cedric},
    title={Cognitive phylogenies, the Darwinian logic of descent, and the inadequacy of cladistic thinking},
    journal={Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology},
    volume={3},
    pages={64},
    year={2015},
    url={http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fcell.2015.00064},
    doi={10.3389/fcell.2015.00064},
    issn={2296-634X},
    abstract={There has been a reappraisal of phylogenetic issues in cognitive science, as reconstructing cognitive phylogenies has been considered a key for unveiling the cognitive novelties that set the stage for what makes humans special. In our opinion, the studies made till now have approached cognitive phylogenies in a non-optimal way, and we wish to both highlight their problems and propose ways to amend this.
    The inadequacy of current cognitive phylogenies stems from the influence of the traditional “linear cladograms”, according to which every seemingly new or more sophisticated feature of a cognitive mechanism, viewed as a novelty, is represented as a node on top of the old and shared elements. We claim that this kind of cladograms does not succeed in depicting the complexity with which traits are distributed across species and, furthermore, that the labels of the nodes of these traditional representational systems fail to capture the ‘tinkering’ nature of evolution.
    We argue that if we are to implement cognitive mechanisms in a multi-dimensional perspective, we should decompose them into lower-level, generic functions, which have the additional advantage of being implementable in neural matter, which produces cognition.}
    }

2014

  • Benítez-Burraco, A., & Boeckx, C.. (2014). Universal grammar and biological variation: an evodevo agenda for comparative biolinguistics. Biological theory, 9(2), 122-134. doi:https://doi.org/10.1007/s13752-014-0164-0
    [BibTeX] [Download PDF]
    @article{benitez_boeckx2014evodevo,
    title={Universal Grammar and biological variation: an EvoDevo agenda for comparative biolinguistics},
    author={Benítez-Burraco, Antonio and Boeckx, Cedric},
    journal={Biological theory},
    volume={9},
    number={2},
    pages={122--134},
    year={2014},
    url={https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs13752-014-0164-0},
    doi={https://doi.org/10.1007/s13752-014-0164-0},
    issn={1555-5550}
    }

  • Benítez-Burraco, A., & Boeckx, C.. (2014). Trastornos del lenguaje como oscilopatías. Revista de neurologia, 59(7), 333-334.
    [BibTeX] [Download PDF]
    @article{benitez_boeckx2014revneurol,
    author={Benítez-Burraco, Antonio and Boeckx, Cedric},
    title = {Trastornos del lenguaje como oscilopatías},
    journal = {Revista de Neurologia},
    volume = {59},
    number = {7},
    pages = {333--334},
    year={2014},
    url = {https://www.neurologia.com/articulo/2014317},
    }

  • Benítez-Burraco, A., & Boeckx, C.. (2014). Foxp2, retinoic acid, and language: a promising direction. Frontiers in cellular neuroscience, 8, 387. doi:10.3389/fncel.2014.00387
    [BibTeX] [Download PDF]
    @article{benitez_boeckx2014,
    author={Benítez-Burraco, Antonio and Boeckx, Cedric},
    title={FOXP2, retinoic acid, and language: a promising direction},
    journal={Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience},
    volume={8},
    pages={387},
    year={2014},
    url={http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fncel.2014.00387},
    doi={10.3389/fncel.2014.00387},
    issn={1662-5102}
    }

  • Boeckx, C., & Benítez-Burraco, A.. (2014). The shape of the human language-ready brain. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 282. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00282
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF]
    Our core hypothesis is that the emergence of our species-specific language-ready brain ought to be understood in light of the developmental changes expressed at the levels of brain morphology and neural connectivity that occurred in our species after the split from Neanderthals-Denisovans and that gave us a more globular braincase configuration. In addition to changes at the cortical level, we hypothesize that the anatomical shift that led to globularity also entailed significant changes at the subcortical level. We claim that the functional consequences of such changes must also be taken into account to gain a fuller understanding of our linguistic capacity. Here we focus on the thalamus, which we argue is central to language and human cognition, as it modulates fronto-parietal activity. With this new neurobiological perspective in place, we examine its possible molecular basis. We construct a candidate gene set whose members are involved in the development and connectivity of the thalamus, in the evolution of the human head, and are known to give rise to language-associated cognitive disorders. We submit that the new gene candidate set opens up new windows into our understanding of the genetic basis of our linguistic capacity. Thus, our hypothesis aims at generating new testing grounds concerning core aspects of language ontogeny and phylogeny.

    @article{10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00282,
    author={Boeckx, Cedric and Benítez-Burraco, Antonio},
    title={The shape of the human language-ready brain},
    journal={Frontiers in Psychology},
    volume={5},
    pages={282},
    year={2014},
    url={http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00282},
    doi={10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00282},
    issn={1664-1078},
    abstract={Our core hypothesis is that the emergence of our species-specific language-ready brain ought to be understood in light of the developmental changes expressed at the levels of brain morphology and neural connectivity that occurred in our species after the split from Neanderthals-Denisovans and that gave us a more globular braincase configuration. In addition to changes at the cortical level, we hypothesize that the anatomical shift that led to globularity also entailed significant changes at the subcortical level. We claim that the functional consequences of such changes must also be taken into account to gain a fuller understanding of our linguistic capacity. Here we focus on the thalamus, which we argue is central to language and human cognition, as it modulates fronto-parietal activity. With this new neurobiological perspective in place, we examine its possible molecular basis. We construct a candidate gene set whose members are involved in the development and connectivity of the thalamus, in the evolution of the human head, and are known to give rise to language-associated cognitive disorders. We submit that the new gene candidate set opens up new windows into our understanding of the genetic basis of our linguistic capacity. Thus, our hypothesis aims at generating new testing grounds concerning core aspects of language ontogeny and phylogeny.}
    }

  • Boeckx, C., & Fujita, K.. (2014). Syntax, action, comparative cognitive science, and darwinian thinking. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 627. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00627
    [BibTeX] [Download PDF]
    @article{boeckx_fujita2014,
    author={Boeckx, Cedric and Fujita, Koji},
    title={Syntax, action, comparative cognitive science, and Darwinian thinking},
    journal={Frontiers in Psychology},
    volume={5},
    pages={627},
    year={2014},
    url={http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00627},
    doi={10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00627},
    issn={1664-1078}
    }

  • Boeckx, C., & Benítez-Burraco, A.. (2014). Globularity and language-readiness: generating new predictions by expanding the set of genes of interest. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 1324. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01324
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF]
    This study builds on the hypothesis put forth in Boeckx and Benitez-Burraco (2014), according to which the developmental changes expressed at the levels of brain morphology and neural connectivity that resulted in a more globular braincase in our species were crucial to understand the origins of our language-ready brain. Specifically, this paper explores the links between two well-known ‘language-related’ genes like FOXP2 and ROBO1 implicated in vocal learning and the initial set of genes of interest put forth in Boeckx and Benitez-Burraco (2014), with RUNX2 as focal point. Relying on the existing literature, we uncover potential molecular links that could be of interest to future experimental inquiries into the biological foundations of language and the testing of our initial hypothesis. Our discussion could also be relevant for clinical linguistics and for the interpretation of results from paleogenomics.

    @article{boeckx_benitez2014,
    author={Boeckx, Cedric and Benítez-Burraco, Antonio},
    title={Globularity and language-readiness: generating new predictions by expanding the set of genes of interest},
    journal={Frontiers in Psychology},
    volume={5},
    pages={1324},
    year={2014},
    url={http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01324},
    doi={10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01324},
    issn={1664-1078},
    abstract={This study builds on the hypothesis put forth in Boeckx and Benitez-Burraco (2014), according to which the developmental changes expressed at the levels of brain morphology and neural connectivity that resulted in a more globular braincase in our species were crucial to understand the origins of our language-ready brain. Specifically, this paper explores the links between two well-known ‘language-related’ genes like FOXP2 and ROBO1 implicated in vocal learning and the initial set of genes of interest put forth in Boeckx and Benitez-Burraco (2014), with RUNX2 as focal point. Relying on the existing literature, we uncover potential molecular links that could be of interest to future experimental inquiries into the biological foundations of language and the testing of our initial hypothesis. Our discussion could also be relevant for clinical linguistics and for the interpretation of results from paleogenomics.}
    }

  • Leivada, E., & Boeckx, C.. (2014). Schizophrenia and cortical blindness: protective effects and implications for language. Frontiers in human neuroscience, 8, 940. doi:10.3389/fnhum.2014.00940
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF]
    The repeatedly noted absence of case-reports of individuals with schizophrenia and congenital/early developed blindness has led several authors to argue that the latter can confer protective effects against the former. In this work, we present a number of relevant case-reports from different syndromes that show comorbidity of congenital and early blindness with schizophrenia. On the basis of these reports, we argue that a distinction between different types of blindness in terms of the origin of the visual deficit, cortical or peripheral, is crucial for understanding the observed patterns of comorbidity. We discuss the genetic underpinnings and the brain structures involved in schizophrenia and blindness, with insights from language processing, laying emphasis on the three structures that particularly stand out: the occipital cortex, the lateral geniculate nucleus and the pulvinar. Last, we build on previous literature on the nature of the protective effects in order to offer novel insights into the nature of the protection mechanism from the perspective of the brain structures involved in each type of blindness.

    @article{leivada_boeckx2014,
    author={Leivada, Evelina and Boeckx, Cedric},
    title={Schizophrenia and cortical blindness: protective effects and implications for language},
    journal={Frontiers in Human Neuroscience},
    volume={8},
    pages={940},
    year={2014},
    url={http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00940},
    doi={10.3389/fnhum.2014.00940},
    issn={1662-5161},
    abstract={The repeatedly noted absence of case-reports of individuals with schizophrenia and congenital/early developed blindness has led several authors to argue that the latter can confer protective effects against the former. In this work, we present a number of relevant case-reports from different syndromes that show comorbidity of congenital and early blindness with schizophrenia. On the basis of these reports, we argue that a distinction between different types of blindness in terms of the origin of the visual deficit, cortical or peripheral, is crucial for understanding the observed patterns of comorbidity. We discuss the genetic underpinnings and the brain structures involved in schizophrenia and blindness, with insights from language processing, laying emphasis on the three structures that particularly stand out: the occipital cortex, the lateral geniculate nucleus and the pulvinar. Last, we build on previous literature on the nature of the protective effects in order to offer novel insights into the nature of the protection mechanism from the perspective of the brain structures involved in each type of blindness.}
    }

  • Martins, P. T., & Boeckx, C.. (2014). Attention mechanisms and the mosaic evolution of speech. Frontiers in psychology, 5, 1463. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01463
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF]
    There is still no categorical answer for why humans, and no other species, have speech, or why speech is the way it is. Several purely anatomical arguments have been put forward, but they have been shown to be false, biologically implausible, or of limited scope. This perspective paper supports the idea that evolutionary theories of speech could benefit from a focus on the cognitive mechanisms that make speech possible, for which antecedents in evolutionary history and brain correlates can be found. This type of approach is part of a very recent, but rapidly growing tradition, which has provided crucial insights on the nature of human speech by focusing on the biological bases of vocal learning. Here, we call attention to what might be an important ingredient for speech. We contend that a general mechanism of attention, which manifests itself not only in visual but also auditory (and possibly other) modalities, might be one of the key pieces of human speech, in addition to the mechanisms underlying vocal learning, and the pairing of facial gestures with vocalic units.

    @article{martins_boeckx2014,
    author={Martins, Pedro T. and Boeckx, Cedric},
    title={Attention mechanisms and the mosaic evolution of speech},
    journal={Frontiers in Psychology},
    volume={5},
    pages={1463},
    year={2014},
    url={http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01463},
    doi={10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01463},
    issn={1664-1078},
    abstract={There is still no categorical answer for why humans, and no other species, have speech, or why speech is the way it is. Several purely anatomical arguments have been put forward, but they have been shown to be false, biologically implausible, or of limited scope. This perspective paper supports the idea that evolutionary theories of speech could benefit from a focus on the cognitive mechanisms that make speech possible, for which antecedents in evolutionary history and brain correlates can be found. This type of approach is part of a very recent, but rapidly growing tradition, which has provided crucial insights on the nature of human speech by focusing on the biological bases of vocal learning. Here, we call attention to what might be an important ingredient for speech. We contend that a general mechanism of attention, which manifests itself not only in visual but also auditory (and possibly other) modalities, might be one of the key pieces of human speech, in addition to the mechanisms underlying vocal learning, and the pairing of facial gestures with vocalic units.}
    }

2013

  • Boeckx, C., & Leivada, E.. (2013). Entangled parametric hierarchies: problems for an overspecified universal grammar. Plos one, 8(9), 1-11. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0072357
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF]
    This study addresses the feasibility of the classical notion of parameter in linguistic theory from the perspective of parametric hierarchies. A novel program-based analysis is implemented in order to show certain empirical problems related to these hierarchies. The program was developed on the basis of an enriched data base spanning 23 contemporary and 5 ancient languages. The empirical issues uncovered cast doubt on classical parametric models of language acquisition as well as on the conceptualization of an overspecified Universal Grammar that has parameters among its primitives. Pinpointing these issues leads to the proposal that (i) the (bio)logical problem of language acquisition does not amount to a process of triggering innately pre-wired values of parameters and (ii) it paves the way for viewing language, epigenetic (‘parametric’) variation as an externalization-related epiphenomenon, whose learning component may be more important than what sometimes is assumed.

    @article{boeckx_leivada2013,
    author = {Boeckx, Cedric AND Leivada, Evelina},
    journal = {PLOS ONE},
    publisher = {Public Library of Science},
    title = {Entangled Parametric Hierarchies: Problems for an Overspecified Universal Grammar},
    year = {2013},
    volume = {8},
    url = {https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0072357},
    pages = {1-11},
    abstract = {This study addresses the feasibility of the classical notion of parameter in linguistic theory from the perspective of parametric hierarchies. A novel program-based analysis is implemented in order to show certain empirical problems related to these hierarchies. The program was developed on the basis of an enriched data base spanning 23 contemporary and 5 ancient languages. The empirical issues uncovered cast doubt on classical parametric models of language acquisition as well as on the conceptualization of an overspecified Universal Grammar that has parameters among its primitives. Pinpointing these issues leads to the proposal that (i) the (bio)logical problem of language acquisition does not amount to a process of triggering innately pre-wired values of parameters and (ii) it paves the way for viewing language, epigenetic (‘parametric’) variation as an externalization-related epiphenomenon, whose learning component may be more important than what sometimes is assumed.},
    number = {9},
    doi = {10.1371/journal.pone.0072357}
    }

  • Boeckx, C.. (2013). Biolinguistics: forays into human cognitive biology. Journal of anthropological sciences, 91, 63-89. doi:10.4436/jass.91009
    [BibTeX] [Abstract] [Download PDF]
    The present article surveys the field of biolinguistics. It revisits the roots of the field’s core research agenda, then turns to the various factors that led to its recent re-emergence, and finally offers suggestions for future inquiry. The essay also serves to highlight certain conceptual issues that should be addressed if the field is to bear its interdisciplinary fruits.

    @article{boeckx2013,
    author={Boeckx, Cedric},
    title = {Biolinguistics: forays into human cognitive biology},
    journal = {Journal of Anthropological Sciences},
    volume = {91},
    year = {2013},
    pages = {63--89},
    url = {http://www.isita-org.com/jass/Contents/2013vol91/Boeckx/24038628.pdf},
    doi = {10.4436/jass.91009},
    issn = {1827-4765},
    abstract = {The present article surveys the field of biolinguistics. It revisits the roots of the field’s core research agenda, then turns to the various factors that led to its recent re-emergence, and finally offers suggestions for future inquiry. The essay also serves to highlight certain conceptual issues that should be addressed if the field is to bear its interdisciplinary fruits.}
    }

  • Bruner, E., & Boeckx, C.. (2013). Language: the elusive milestone. Journal of anthropological sciences, 91, 13-24. doi:10.4436/JASS.91025
    [BibTeX] [Download PDF]
    @article{bruner_boeckx2013,
    author={Bruner, Emiliano and Boeckx, Cedric},
    title = {Language: the elusive milestone},
    journal = {Journal of Anthropological Sciences},
    volume = {91},
    year = {2013},
    pages = {13--24},
    url = {http://www.isita-org.com/jass/Contents/2013vol91/Bruner/24371148.pdf},
    doi = {10.4436/JASS.91025},
    issn = {1827-4765}
    }