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CPCN Seminar

CPCN Seminar
Room 304/305, McElwain
2:00pm Friday, 25th July 2014
3:00pm Friday, 25th July 2014

Speaker: Professor Michael Corballis, University of Auckland

Title: The origin of language

About the Speaker

Michael Corballis is Emeritus Professor, and Fellow of the American Psychological Society and the Royal Society of New Zealand. He is well known for his somewhat controversial theories linking Evolutionary Psychology with modern cognitive neuroscience and theories of origins of cognitive and brain functions, including mental time travel and the origin of language.


According to some archaeologists and linguists, including Noam Chomsky, language is uniquely human and emerged in a single step (the “great leap forward”) within the past 100,000 years. This is profoundly anti-Darwinian. I will argues instead that the evolution of language can be understood in terms of incremental evolution through our primate heritage, and that precursors can be seen in the primate mirror  system, mental time travel, and gestural communication in apes. This provides a basis for the evolution of language from gesture to pantomime, with pantomimic gestures increasingly conventionalized and simplified. Vocal gestures (speech) were incorporated to allow the burden of language to be largely compressed from the upper body into the mouth, with increased efficiency. Although manual language persists in sign languages, speech is an early example of miniaturization.

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Created: Monday, 21st July 2014 by uqpjack1
Modified: Monday, 21st July 2014 by uqpjack1
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