How the Brain Got Language: The Mirror System Hypothesis

Hardcover | March 13, 2012

byMichael A. Arbib

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Unlike any other species, humans can learn and use language. This book explains how the brain evolved to make language possible, through what Michael Arbib calls the Mirror System Hypothesis. Because of mirror neurons, monkeys, chimps, and humans can learn by imitation, but only "compleximitation," which humans exhibit, is powerful enough to support the breakthrough to language. This theory provides a path from the openness of manual gesture, which we share with nonhuman primates, through the complex imitation of manual skills, pantomime, protosign (communication based onconventionalized manual gestures), and finally to protospeech. The theory explains why we humans are as capable of learning sign languages as we are of learning to speak. This fascinating book shows how cultural evolution took over from biological evolution for the transition from protolanguage to fully fledged languages. The author explains how the brainmechanisms that made the original emergence of languages possible, perhaps 100,000 years ago, are still operative today in the way children acquire language, in the way that new sign languages have emerged in recent decades, and in the historical processes of language change on a time scale fromdecades to centuries. Though the subject is complex, this book is highly readable, providing all the necessary background in primatology, neuroscience, and linguistics to make the book accessible to a general audience.

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Unlike any other species, humans can learn and use language. This book explains how the brain evolved to make language possible, through what Michael Arbib calls the Mirror System Hypothesis. Because of mirror neurons, monkeys, chimps, and humans can learn by imitation, but only "compleximitation," which humans exhibit, is powerful eno...

Michael Arbib was a pioneer in the interdisciplinary study of computers and brains, and has long studied brain mechanisms underlying the visual control of action. For more than a decade he has devoted much energy to understanding the relevance of this work, and especially of mirror neurons, to the evolution of the language-ready brain...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:416 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:March 13, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199896682

ISBN - 13:9780199896684

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Table of Contents

Part I. Setting the Stage1. Underneath the Lampposts2. Perspectives on Human Languages3. Vocalization and Gesture in Monkey and Ape4. Human Brain, Monkey Brain, and Praxis5. Mirror Neurons and Mirror SystemsPart II. Developing the Hypothesis6. Signposts: The Argument of the Book Revealed7. Simple and Complex Imitation8. Via Pantomime to Protosign9. Protosign and Protospeech: An Expanding Spiral10. How Languages Got Started11. How the Child Acquires Language12. How Languages Emerge13. How Languages Keep Changing