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Saint Petersburg University researchers discover universals in evolution of biological systems and languages

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Saint Petersburg University researchers discover universals in evolution of biological systems and languages

Yury Natochin, Professor of Saint Petersburg State University, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and Professor Tatiana Chernigovskaya, Director of the Laboratory for Cognitive Studies, have published a joint research into the similarity of the evolution of biological systems and languages.

Their article in Biological Communications magazine provides a comparison of two systems evolution — in homeostatic and in language systems – and suggests there are certain evolutionary universals, a spokesperson for the University told Saint-Petersburg TV Channel.

They argue that the patterns of evolution of functions are hierarchically organized according to four main levels: I — the primary level: a cell in biology, a phoneme in language; II — functional units: a nephron, a morpheme; III — organs: a kidney (a lung, a heart, etc.), a word; IV — systems: physico-chemical constancy, a sentence or a phrase.

The laws of evolution seem to be relevant not only for biological domains, but for informational systems. Thus, both words and organs are multifunctional, as a word can have several meanings. Moreover, the mechanism of regress applies to both biological and informational systems, when an organism stops adapting to the changing conditions and a word gets out of usage.

According to the researchers, these universals are valid not only for natural languages, but for artificial informational systems like programming languages. 

Photo: St. Petersburg TV channel

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