From Hand to Mouth
The Origins of Language
By (author) Michael C. Corballis
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From Hand to Mouth by Michael C. Corballis
Book DescriptionIt is often said that speech is what distinguishes us from other animals. But are we all talk? What if language was bequeathed to us not by word of mouth, but as a hand-me-down? The notion that language evolved not from animal cries but from manual and facial gestures--that, for most of human history, actions have spoken louder than words--has been around since Condillac. But never before has anyone developed a full-fledged theory of how, why, and with what effects language evolved from a gestural system to the spoken word. Marshaling far-flung evidence from anthropology, animal behavior, neurology, molecular biology, anatomy, linguistics, and evolutionary psychology, Michael Corballis makes the case that language developed, with the emergence of Homo sapiens, from primate gestures to a true signed language, complete with grammar and syntax and at best punctuated with grunts and other vocalizations. While vocal utterance played an increasingly important complementary role, autonomous speech did not appear until about 50,000 years ago--much later than generally believed. Bringing in significant new evidence to bolster what has been a minority view, Corballis goes beyond earlier supporters of a gestural theory by suggesting why speech eventually (but not completely!) supplanted gesture. He then uses this milestone to account for the artistic explosion and demographic triumph of the particular group of Homo sapiens from whom we are descended. And he asserts that speech, like written language, was a cultural invention and not a biological fait accompli. Writing with wit and eloquence, Corballis makes nimble reference to literature, mythology, natural history, sports, and contemporary politics as he explains in fascinating detail what we now know about such varied subjects as early hominid evolution, modern signed languages, and the causes of left-handedness. From Hand to Mouth will have scholars and laymen alike talking--and sometimes gesturing--for years to come.
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Book DetailsISBN: 9780691116730
(235mm x 155mm x 17mm)
Imprint: Princeton University Press
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publish Date: 15-Sep-2003
Country of Publication: United States
Books By Author Michael C. Corballis
Wandering Mind, Hardback (April 2015)
Does the fact that fifty percent of our waking hours find us failing to focus on the task at hand represent a problem? This book shows you why, rehabilitating, woolgathering and revealing its incredibly useful effects and how mind-wandering not only frees you from moment-to-moment drudgery, but also from the limitations of our immediate selves.
Very Short Tour of the Mind, Paperback (May 2014)
A journey through our mental landscape
Recursive Mind, Paperback (May 2014)
Challenges the commonly held notion that language is what makes us uniquely human. This book argues that what distinguishes us in the animal kingdom is our capacity for recursion: the ability to embed our thoughts within other thoughts.
Pieces of Mind, Paperback (May 2012)» View all books by Michael C. Corballis
The human mind is arguably the most complex organ in the universe. Modern computers might be faster, and whales might have larger brains, but neither can match the sheer intellect or capacity for creativity that we humans enjoy.
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Author Biography - Michael C. Corballis
Michael C. Corballis is Professor of Psychology and a member of the Research Center for Cognitive Science at the University of Auckland. He is the author of three books, including "The Lopsided Ape", and coeditor of "The Descent of Mind". His work has appeared in "Science","Nature", Scientific American", and "American Scientist".
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