Précis of How the brain got language: The Mirror System Hypothesis

Bibliographic Collection: 
CARTA-Inspired Publication
Publication Type: Journal Article
Authors: Arbib, MA
Year of Publication: 2013
Journal: Language and Cognition
Volume: 5
Issue: 2-3
Number: 2-3
Pagination: 107-131
Date Published: 09/2013
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Publication Language: eng
ISBN Number: (Online) 1866-9859
Keywords: Brain, Imitation, language evolution, Mirror neurons, mirror systems, pantomime, primate communication, Protolanguage, protosign, protospeech, schema theory, Sign language

The short answer to the question of How the Brain Got Language is “through biological and cultural evolution.” The challenge is to be more specific. I use theterm “the language-ready brain” to suggest that the brain of early Homo sapiens was adequate to support language but that it required tens of millennia for humans to be able to exploit these innate neural capabilities to develop, cumulatively, languages and the societies that made languages possible and necessary.The ability to surf the World Wide Web is a recent example of society’s expandingability to develop technologies and social structures which allow humans to exploit their neural capabilities in ways that were not part of the adaptive pressures for biological evolution.The two-fold challenge of the book, then, is to understand (i) what are themechanisms of the language-ready brain and what adaptive pressures evolvedthem biologically; and (ii) how did those mechanisms support the emergence oflanguage as well as modern-day patterns of language change, acquisition and use, and the social interactions which support them?


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