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Seminar: 10/21 - Michael Corballis

11:00 to 12:30 PM      at:  

Univ. of Auckland, Department of Psychology
"Did language evolve before speech?"

Homo sapiens emerged in Africa some 170,000 years ago. So-called “modern” behavior, as expressed in technology and art, seems to have emerged later, and was carried out of Africa in the migrations of around 80,000 years ago, creating what has been called a “human revolution” in Europe, but with increasing evidence of similar developments in Asia, Australia, and Africa itself. A mutation of the FOXP2 gene, important for the development of articulate speech, occurred some time within the past 100,000 years, and was involved in the incorporation of vocal articulation into Broca’s area and the so-called “mirror system.” I will argue that the emergence of autonomous speech lay behind the human revolution and the eventual extinction of other extant hominids. Language itself evolved earlier as a gestural system, based originally on the hands but with gradually increasing facial and vocal elements.