Born 1959, is professor of biology and head of the Department of Plant Taxonomy and Ecology of Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, and chairman of the PhD program in theoretical biology and ecology. His main interest is theoretical evolutionary biology focussing on the common principles of the major steps in evolution, such as the origin of life, the emergence of cells, the origin of animal societies, and the appearance of human language. He was awarded the New Europe Prize in 1996 and used the prize to establish the NEST (New Europe School for Theoretical Biology) foundation, which helps young Hungarian theoretical biologists. President of the International Organisation for Systematic and Evolutionary Biology. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences acknowledged him with the Academy Prize in 1999. From 1999 he is the Editor-in-Chief of the new journal Selection.
Natural language is unique to the species Homo sapiens. Although some other species can be taughtwords up to a few hundred, they seem to lack the innate ability to master syntax. In contrast, we seem to have a "language instinct" that enables us to acquire complicated rules of language without paying too much conscious attention to that task. These facts call for an explanation. More specifically, one should ask what exactly is innate that distinguishes us from our closest primate relatives.
I shall argue that genetically controlled changes in the development of the brain was the key innovation, so as to render a large part of our brain network proficient in handling symbols and performing syntactic operations.
Language is the last inheritance system that emerged in evolution which can be regarded as a positively selected adaptation. Its importance in forming and maintaining a complex society will also be spelled out.
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