I typed “Chomsky ‘universal grammar’ matrilineal” into Google, looking to see how much attention has been given to the various tenets of Chomsky’s universal grammar as regards social structure. The results were 215, fewer if I subbed in “patrilineal.”  Using “Transformational Grammar,” the results were even fewer.

For the most part, theorists and academics are not exploring juxtapositions between social structure and language structure as they relate to Chomsky’s hierarchy trees and the various parts of language that might suggest some sort of evolution over time.

One issue is that in Chomsky’s foundation hypothesis, every human on the planet shares the same language template.  This may be true.  Then again, there may be derivations.  If we presuppose, as the anthropologist Chris Knight, the archeologist Marija Gimbutas, and sociologist Riane Eisler have, that humans evolved until recently within matrifocal social structures, then language structure may or may not reflect this matrifocal evolution, depending on whether the hypothesized template was completed before or after the transition to patrifocal social structure.

If matrifocal social structure language groups show clear trends in particular linguistic structures, then it might be possible to adjust Chomsky trees to reveal evolutionary developments over time.

The hypothetical emergence of humans into at first gestural language and then speech was no doubt accompanied by a transition from an experience characterized by at first primary process to a combination of primary process and standard split consciousness to finally modern day, split-consciousness, speech-using human beings.

Can this pathway be traced in specific ways that allow modern language users an ability to understand how they created grammar?

Children born of parents speaking pidgins where many speech conventions have been stripped develop creoles that reveal patterns that apply to almost all creoles across the planet.  It has been observed that these patterns hold a number of structural features identical to sign language.  Might there be observable differences between creoles invented by exclusively matrifocal societies vs. those invented by patrifocal societies?  Are there similarities between creoles and sign languages and the language structures of matrifocal societies that do not appear in patrifocal societies?

There is a transformational grammar principle called pragmatics.  Some languages, particularly Chinese and Japanese languages, show a tendency to contextualize a communication by noting a second level or dissociative observation of whom a particular experience is happening to.  In addition to subject, verb and object, you get context.  Does this split reflect a particularly split-consciousness, patrifocal frame of reference?  Does the pragmatics principle ever appear in matrifocal societies or creoles?  These are the kinds of patterns that might reveal an evolution of language among modern language users.  In other pieces, I’ve alluded to the potential power of tense use to reveal proximity to primary process and a possible position on a biological/social evolution path.

Elia is joining me in seeking correlations between matrilineal societies’ tense structures.  Other language structures may also be in play.  Elia is particularly interested by the possibility that there may be different myth motifs and myth structures that can be categorized by social structure.  I wonder if Levi-Strauss conducted research in this area.  Chris Knight’s Blood Relations might provide some clues.

Chomsky’s transformational grammar was created as a structural blueprint for how humans are genetically predisposed to learn and create speech.  Consider that transformational grammar might also reveal stepping stones on a pathway toward how we learn and create speech.  Instead of presupposing that only the outcome of evolution is revealed, let’s examine these structures for correlations with social structure, assuming social structure reflects an evolutionary narrative.

Where we’ve been and how we got here may be hidden in how we speak.  The words we use may have to do with understanding our origins in addition to the underlying structure of those words.


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