Rudie Botha, born in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1942. Ph.D. from Utrecht University. Professor of General Linguistics at the University of Stellenbosch.
Fellow (1 September 2005 – 30 June 2006)
THE WINDOWS APPROACH TO LANGUAGE EVOLUTION
Within the framework of the overarching Windows Project on Language Genesis, I pursued two general concerns during the period of my fellowship.
First, I continued my assessment of the ‘window’ potential of pidgin languages and homesign systems, writing final versions of two earlier exploratory articles. In addition, I came to realize that to be able to assess the potential of restricted linguistic systems as windows on language evolution, one has to compare them with other types of ‘windows’. Consequently, I spent a considerable amount of time on analyzing such other putative ‘windows’ as Dean Falk’s motherese ‘window’, Chris Henshilwood and Francesco d’Errico’s shell-bead ‘window’, and Steven Brown and Steven Mithen’s music ‘window’. To be able to analyze the latter two ‘windows’, I had to familiarize myself with technical issues in symbolic archaeology, palaeoanthropology, and palaeomusicology. These cross-boundary excursions were well-worth the effort: they added a valuable multidisciplinary dimension to the Windows Project and, moreover, yielded three more articles.
Second, I extended my work on the conceptual foundations of the Windows Approach, further clarifying the central role of specifically bridge theories, general theories of evolution and linguistic ontologies in ‘window’ work. As a consequence, I was able to rework an earlier article on the conceptual foundations of the Windows Approach and to write a new article offering a comparative perspective on different kinds of windows – linguistic, archaeological and palaeomusicological ones. The work reported in the seven articles referred to above will form the basis of my new book on the Windows Approach to language evolution.
In addition to doing the research described above, I acted as co-ordinator of the theme group that worked on the Windows Project and I spent some time on organizing the Cradle of Language Conference. To be held in November 2006 in Stellenbosch, South Africa, this international conference on language evolution will conclude the work of the group.