The Truth About Language: What It Is And Where It Came From

Hardcover | March 29, 2017

byMichael C. Corballis

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Evolutionary science has long viewed language as, basically, a fortunate accident—a crossing of wires that happened to be extraordinarily useful, setting humans apart from other animals and onto a trajectory that would see their brains (and the products of those brains) become increasingly complex.
 
But as Michael C. Corballis shows in The Truth about Language, it’s time to reconsider those assumptions. Language, he argues, is not the product of some “big bang” 60,000 years ago, but rather the result of a typically slow process of evolution with roots in elements of grammatical language found much farther back in our evolutionary history. Language, Corballis explains, evolved as a way to share thoughts—and, crucially for human development, to connect our own “mental time travel,” our imagining of events and people that are not right in front of us, to that of other people. We share that ability with other animals, but it was the development of language that made it powerful: it led to our ability to imagine other perspectives, to imagine ourselves in the minds of others, a development that, by easing social interaction, proved to be an extraordinary evolutionary advantage.


Even as his thesis challenges such giants as Chomsky and Stephen Jay Gould, Corballis writes accessibly and wittily, filling his account with unforgettable anecdotes and fascinating historical examples. The result is a book that’s perfect both for deep engagement and as brilliant fodder for that lightest of all forms of language, cocktail party chatter.
 

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Evolutionary science has long viewed language as, basically, a fortunate accident—a crossing of wires that happened to be extraordinarily useful, setting humans apart from other animals and onto a trajectory that would see their brains (and the products of those brains) become increasingly complex.   But as Michael C. Corballis shows i...

Michael C. Corballis is professor emeritus of psychology at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and the author of many books, including The Wandering Mind and A Very Short Tour of the Mind: 21 Short Walks around the Human Brain.  

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.1 inPublished:March 29, 2017Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022628719X

ISBN - 13:9780226287195

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Preface
Part One: Background to the Problem
1          The Rubicon
2          Language as Miracle
3          Language and Natural Selection
Part Two: The Mental Prerequisites
4          Thinking without Language
5          Mind Reading
6          Stories
Part Three: Constructing Language
7          Hands On to Language
8          Finding Voice
9          How Language Is Structured
10        Over the Rubicon
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

"The word 'truth' in the title implies that there are misperceptions to be corrected. These include those of Robert Berwick and Noam Chomsky who, in Why Only Us approach language and evolution with an undue emphasis on Merge and with no concern for mental time travel and the linkage of brain and hand whose importance is so engagingly emphasized by Corballis."