Human Language and Our Reptilian Brain: The Subcortical Bases of Speech, Syntax, and Thought

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This book is an entry into the fierce current debate among psycholinguists, neuroscientists, and evolutionary theorists about the nature and origins of human language. A prominent neuroscientist here takes up the Darwinian case, using data seldom considered by psycholinguists and neurolinguists to argue that human language—though more sophisticated than all other forms of animal communication—is not a qualitatively different ability from all forms of animal communication, does not require a quantum evolutionary ...

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Overview

This book is an entry into the fierce current debate among psycholinguists, neuroscientists, and evolutionary theorists about the nature and origins of human language. A prominent neuroscientist here takes up the Darwinian case, using data seldom considered by psycholinguists and neurolinguists to argue that human language—though more sophisticated than all other forms of animal communication—is not a qualitatively different ability from all forms of animal communication, does not require a quantum evolutionary leap to explain it, and is not unified in a single "language instinct."

Using clinical evidence from speech-impaired patients, functional neuroimaging, and evolutionary biology to make his case, Philip Lieberman contends that human language is not a single separate module but a functional neurological system made up of many separate abilities. Language remains as it began, Lieberman argues: a device for coping with the world. But in a blow to human narcissism, he makes the case that this most remarkable human ability is a by-product of our remote reptilian ancestors' abilities to dodge hazards, seize opportunities, and live to see another day.

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Editorial Reviews

F. S. Szalay
This is a thoughtful and scholarly book that is bound to expand the horizons of any...well-educated layperson or student who would like a brief review of this dynamic multidisciplinary field that encompasses neurology, primate studies, anthropology, psychology, and of course linguistics.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Philip Lieberman is Fred M. Seed Professor of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences and Professor of Anthropology at Brown University.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Functional Neural Systems 19
2 Speech Production and Perception 37
3 The Lexicon and Working Memory 61
4 The Subcortical Basal Ganglia 82
5 The Evolution of the Functional Language System 124
6 Commentary 157
Notes 169
References 181
Index 209
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