La universalidad del lenguaje – todos los grupos humanos desarrollan un lenguaje y ninguna otra especie animal ha desarrollado un lenguaje – puede explicarse sobre estas bases (necesidad de comunicación entre los miembros del grupo y capacidad y habilidades para desarrollarlo) sin necesidad de que exista un “gen” del lenguaje. Como dice Bates, todos los seres humanos comen con las manos, pero no es necesario un gen que así lo prescriba para explicar este comportamiento universal. Que los lenguajes existentes compartan estructuras y conceptos se explica fácilmente porque sirven a la misma función y, podría añadirse, porque muchos de ellos tienen un tronco común en cuanto han nacido en el seno de grupos humanos que se disgregaron no hace tanto tiempo (indo-europeo).
In Tomasello's current theory of language acquisition, language is treated not as a specific biological adaptation, but rather as a form of cognition that children develop through regular interaction with adult speakers…Specifically, he contends that language is learned by an individual who hears an utterance, attempts to decipher the meaning intended by its speaker, and then, in order to communicate the same meaning, intentionally produces the same form(s). An individual of any species which possesses the requisite cognitive and interpersonal capacities should – according to Tomasello – be able to develop language in this way.
Intention-reading… is one of the fundamental and necessary capacities of an organism that enable it to acquire language…allows the individual to enter into periods of joint attention with others, in which the acquisition of new signs can take place…Necessary prerequisites to the development of this understanding are therefore the individual's understanding that he or she is an intentional being, as well as his or her ability to draw analogies between others and the self.
Sounds become language for young children when and only when they understand that the adult is making that sound with the intention that they attend to something. This requires an understanding of other persons as intentional agents who intend things toward one's own intentional states.
learners of a language must assume that what is said to them in a joint attentional scene is intended to be "useful or interesting" to themselves, and for this reason be highly motivated to decipher acts of communication directed toward them. In his own words, this assumption of the other's helpfulness on the part of each party in a linguistic interaction "is what motivates them to cooperate in getting the message across in the first place – they both assume mutually that it will be to their individual and mutual benefit to do so"….Assumptions and motivations of mutual helpfulness enable the two parties to work together to ensure that the language learner fully understands the communicative act in question
a twentyfour month old child, his or her mother, and a researcher played together with three distinct objects until the mother left the room, after which the researcher brought out a fourth object for the child and him to play with as well. Upon the mother's return to the room, she exclaimed "Oh look! A modi, a modi!" without looking at any one particular object. Children tested in this manner later demonstrated an association between the word modi and the fourth object of the study, leading Tomasello's team to conclude that they had reasoned the other three objects would not have been relevant to their mothers' excitement… wherein the child L pointed to the location of the item her mother was seeking, is indicative of a general human tendency to offer helpful information to their social partners… human children at the time of their entry into language are therefore able and naturally motivated to a) act relevantly, b) assume relevance in others, c) act helpfully and d) assume helpfulness in others. All four of these, claims Tomasello, are required for the understanding and acquisition of linguistic utterances
… in Tomasello's opinion, although chimpanzees assume and can act with relevance, they do not appear to be motivated to communicatively share with another information that would be relevant to the other's own goals. In this sense, Tomasello argues, they are not helpful.
once a language-capable individual understands the meaning behind a communicative act, he or she will be motivated by a social pressure toward conformity to produce the same action when he or she wants to convey the same meaning, and so will not invent an original, ad hoc communicative device to achieve this purpose. The social pressure to conform, Tomasello suggests, reflects "a kind of group identity and social rationality" that is most apparent in collaborative acts requiring multiple individuals to work together to accomplish a mutual goal. Thus, according to Tomasello, beings that collaborate with one another to pursue common goals must possess a strong sense of group identity which, in turn, produces the motivation to imitate in accordance with perceived social norms… The simple fact is that, as in many domains of human social life, mutual expectations, when put into the public arena, turn into policeable social norms and obligations
Tomasello comments that chimpanzees are thus very unlike humans in the playing of the ultimatum game: they do not systematically make fair offers to conspecific responders; they do not systematically reject unfair offers from conspecific proposers; and they very rarely (2% of trials in this experiment) exhibit signs of anger at an unfair offer.
any individual capable of acquiring lexical items will already possess the capacities required to acquire patterns of syntax as well, provided also that that individual is able to recognize those patterns in the speech around him or her