Language, embodiment, and the cognitive niche
Embodied agents use bodily actions and environmental interventions to make the world a better place to think in. Where does language fit into this emerging picture of the embodied, ecologically efficient agent? One useful way to approach this question is to consider language itself as a cognition-enhancing animal-built structure. To take this perspective is to view language as a kind of self-constructed cognitive niche: a persisting though never stationary material scaffolding whose critical role in promoting thought and reason remains surprisingly ill-understood. It is the very materiality of this linguistic scaffolding, I suggest, that is responsible for some key benefits. By materializing thought in words, we create structures that are themselves proper objects of perception, manipulation, and (more) thought.