The Truth about Language: What it is and Where it Came From

Michael C. Corballis

Format: Paperback, Ebook
Pages: 272
Published: April 2017
ISBN: 9781869408633
$39.99

Available in Ebook

Michael Corballis answers some of the hardest questions in science – where did language come from and why do we like it so much? – with his usual verve and humour.

While birds can chirp and monkeys can chatter, only humans possess the extraordinary power to tell stories and offer explanations, to explain and persuade, to baffle and bullshit that we call language.

How come? Where did language come from? In this book, Michael Corballis takes on what has been called the hardest problem in science.

From God to Noam Chomsky, many have suggested that language arose suddenly in a way that cannot be explained through ordinary evolutionary processes. Corballis argues otherwise. He uncovers the precursors of language in the ability of mice and other animals to engage in ‘mental time travel’, the use of gesture by apes, the capacity of chimpanzees to step into the shoes (or paws) of others, and the increasing need for social co-operation as hominins left the forest. By adding voice and grammar, language enabled humans to take all those capacities up an evolutionary notch. Now we could share stories, we could work collaboratively in groups, and – as different languages became standardised – we could even learn to dislike different groups and different cultures. We were human.

Language fills our daily lives with talk and gossip, our televisions with soap operas and sports commentators, our lecture halls with bespectacled wisdom and our libraries with books like this.

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Reviews

A fine, accessible introduction to a captivating, and still evolving, academic field. - Kirkus Review

In this engrossing book Professor Michael C. Corballis tames an array of findings, theories and disciplines to provide context for his take on the matter. What results is a highly digestible and enjoyable account of language for the general reader. - Emma Johnson, Booksellers NZ

In The Truth About Language, Corballis takes us for a brisk stroll through the neurolinguistic savannah. He covers a lot of ground, from linguistics to theory of mind, from displacement to genetics, from human development (baby brain growth and our unique period of adolescence) to social intelligence, from the workings of our memory to the apparently unsquashable notion of the aquatic ape, from stories to play, religion and art. - Mark Broatch, NZ Listener