Finding Our Tongues: Mothers, Infants, and the Origins of Language by Dean Falk, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble
Finding Our Tongues: Mothers, Infants, and the Origins of Language

Finding Our Tongues: Mothers, Infants, and the Origins of Language

by Dean Falk
     
 

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Scientists have long theorized that abstract, symbolic thinking evolved to help humans negotiate such classically male activities as hunting, tool making, and warfare, and eventually developed into spoken language. In Finding Our Tongues, Dean Falk overturns this established idea, offering a daring new theory that springs from a simple observation:

Overview


Scientists have long theorized that abstract, symbolic thinking evolved to help humans negotiate such classically male activities as hunting, tool making, and warfare, and eventually developed into spoken language. In Finding Our Tongues, Dean Falk overturns this established idea, offering a daring new theory that springs from a simple observation: parents all over the world, in all cultures, talk to infants by using baby talk or “Motherese.” Falk shows how Motherese developed as a way of reassuring babies when mothers had to put them down in order to do work. The melodic vocalizations of early Motherese not only provided the basis of language but also contributed to the growth of music and art.

Combining cutting-edge neuroscience with classic anthropology, Falk offers a potent challenge to conventional wisdom about the emergence of human language.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Franz de Waal, author of Our Inner Ape
“That language began with melodious vocal exchanges between mother and offspring is a most attractive idea. It connects language with love, reassurance, and early bodily rhythms. Instead of the traditional focus on words and grammar, Dean Falk's refreshing new theory has the added bonus of injecting music, another human universal, into the language debate.”

Publishers Weekly
“Readers interested in language acquisition may find Falk’s hypothesis thought provoking.”

Francisco Aboitiz PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Finding Our Tongues is an entertaining book, which can be read by both specialists and non-specialists alike. Dean Falk convincingly argues in favor of the universality of motherese in human cultures, and proposes the bold hypothesis that the acquisition of baby talk in early humans represented a key development in language origins. This book will surely stimulate debate about deep and challenging questions on human nature.”

Psychology Today
“Drawing on an impressive array of data, from observations of chimpanzees to neuroimaging, Falk, an anthropologist, suggests that the mother-child relationship trained our ancestors for language, while also contributing to the development of music and art.”

New Scientist
“Falk makes a strong case that communication between mothers and babies is a linguistic crucible.”

The Nation
“The origin of language is a hot topic – contentious and impossible to prove, but hot. Falk points out that anthropologists have a blind spot where women and babies are concerned: it’s always assumed that the hunters and their toolmaking technologies drive evolution, but in the case of language the childcare hypothesis is more grounded in data than others…. The drab thought of our ancestors – hunger on the brain – hacking away at a deinotherium just doesn’t carry the same frisson as Falk’s theory, wherein motherese not only stimulates language but theory of mind – the recognition of intention, of personhood, in someone else.”

Booklist
“[A] provocative hypothesis…. A conjecture certain to stir debate.”

Philadelphia Weekly
“Dean Falk’s Finding Our Tongues is set to make waves in the anthropological/ linguistic/ scientific community (watch out!) with a new theory of why we speak the way we do.... Prediction: The word ‘Motherese’ will move into popular parlance.”

The Boston Globe
“Original and full of implication…. Path-breaking.”

Scientific American Mind
Finding Our Tongues…provides a fresh and different perspective on language and its mysterious origins.”

New York Review of Books
“[A] simple and largely convincing narrative, written with a…mix of academic authority, anecdotes, and flair…. [Finding Our Tongues] provide[s] delicious food for reflection. [It] show[s] how understanding ourselves today – our bodies, our minds, our behavior – can be achieved only by understanding our evolutionary past.”

American Journal of Physical Anthropology
“Dean Falk offers a totally fresh hypothesis for language origins that is presented in friendly, authoritative but not patronizing prose…. Besides being an impressive feat of thorough, multidisciplinary research that will inform many academics in the fields of primatology, linguistics, human evolution, ethnography, and archaeology, Finding our Tongues is an excellent entry point for general readers interested in language origins and evolution.”

Publishers Weekly

The origins of language, says anthropologist Falk (Braindance ), lie deep in the past, long before Homo sapiens appeared on earth, when some baby hominids lost the common primate ability to cling to mothers with both hands and feet. Mother would have to put baby down to be able to forage for food. This behavior, suggests Falk, led to the creation of calls so that a mother and her baby could know that the other was nearby. Falk claims these calls led not only to language but also to the creation of music, through the inflections of the mother-baby calls, and to pictorial art, as babies drew in the dirt. Despite Falk's evidence, readers may find it a stretch that language, music and art all developed from "putting the baby down" (with dad nowhere in the picture). The author seems weak on basic principles of linguistics, for which she has to quote "an anthropologist friend," and music, where her understanding of interval patterns is at a very basic level. Nonetheless, readers interested in language acquisition may find Falk's hypothesis thought provoking. (Mar.)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780465002191
Publisher:
Basic Books
Publication date:
03/13/2009
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
1,038,801
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author


Dean Falk is Hale G. Smith Professor of Anthropology at Florida State University. She is the author of Braindance and Primate Diversity, and co-author of The Face in the Mirror. Her “putting the baby down” theory, published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, Scientific American, New Scientist, National Geographic, and Newsweek. She lives in Tallahassee, Florida, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

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