Donald Loritz, How the brain evolved language. New York & Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1999. Pp. 227.
Lyle Jenkins, Biolinguistics : exploring the biology of language. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2000. Pp. xiii+264.
In the course of reviewing recent books on the evolution of language and
communication (Dunbar 1996, Hauser 1996, Deacon 1997) I have had
occasion to note that relatively few writers on these topics know much about
linguistics, and to wish that more of them did. I should have remembered the
old adage that one shouldn't wish for things - one might get them.
For more than a century, linguists honored the Linguistic Society of
Paris's ban on all discussion of language evolution; other disciplines went
ahead with it regardless. Now that the centrality of language evolution to any
study of our species is becoming apparent, linguists are desperately trying to
play catchup, and the two volumes reviewed here both appeared in the last
couple of years. Both authors are linguists, albeit hyphenated ones. Donald
Loritz teaches computational linguistics at Georgetown University; his
doctorate was in psycholinguistics. Lyle Jenkins works in the Biolinguistics
Institute in Cambridge, MA; however, his doctorate was in unhyphenated
linguistics. It would be difficult to find two authors whose ideas were more