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Language

We humans are not the only species who communicates, but we are also the only species who communicates in a code as abstract and complex as language. The flexibility of this code enables us to do things that animal systems do not—for example, to talk about things that are not happening at the moment or may never happen and to say things that are not true. Also, the relationship between words and their definitions is arbitrary, meaning that it is impossible to guess one from the other. But the most distinctive characteristic of language is the fact that we make up practically everything we say—all of our sentences are original—which oddly does nothing to throw off our listeners. This entry addresses key developments in the ...

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