As our brains opt for an easy way out, grammar evolves

0
271
As our brains opt for an easy way out, grammar evolves
Like languages, grammar is also an ever-evolving component of communications and a new study on languages across the globe has attributed this evolution to our brain.

Like languages, grammar is also an ever-evolving component of communications and a new study on languages across the globe has attributed this evolution to our brain.

An international team of researchers headed by linguist Balthasar Bickel from the University of Zurich suggest that the way in which our brains process language triggers adjustments – specifically in cases where it is required to exert itself too much to cope with difficult case constructions. When our brains encounter such situations, it starts simplifying them over time.

For their study, researchers conducted statistical analyses of the case systems in more than 600 languages and recorded the changes over time. Researchers then tested these adaptations experimentally in test subjects, measuring the brain flows that become active during language comprehension.

If the first noun in a sentence without a clear case marker (Bertram) does not refer to the agent, the brain activity is stronger (see blue curve). Credit: UZH
If the first noun in a sentence without a clear case marker (Bertram) does not refer to the agent, the brain activity is stronger (see blue curve). Credit: UZH

Scientists were able to establish and demonstrate that brain activity is stronger for complex case constructions than for simple ones.

They further found that certain case constructions tax the brain more, which is why they are eventually omitted from languages all over the world. This omission doesn’t depend on the structural properties of the languages or socio-historical factors.

In other words, biological processes are also instrumental in grammatical changes. Researchers suggested that their findings pave the way for further studies on the origin and development of human language and a better understanding of speech disorders.