Former leading New Zealand publisher and bookseller, and widely experienced judge of both the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Montana New Zealand Book Awards, talks about what he is currently reading, what impresses him and what doesn't, along with chat about the international English language book scene, and links to sites of interest to booklovers.
Thursday, April 06, 2017
The Truth About Language
The Truth About Language: What it is and where it came from
by Michael C. Corballis
Auckland University Press, 17 APRIL 2017, $39.99
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
explainand 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.
About the author:
Michael C. Corballis was born and educated in New Zealand
before completing his PhD in psychology at McGill University, Montreal in 1965.
He taught there from 1968 to 1977, when he was appointed professor of
psychology at The University of Auckland, where he is now emeritus professor.
He has published eleven books and over 400 articles and book chapters on such
topics as memory, language, brain asymmetry, and human evolution. His most
recent books are The Recursive Mind (2011) and The Wandering Mind (2015).