Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-99c86f546-swqlm Total loading time: 0.32 Render date: 2021-12-08T01:52:41.404Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

6 - Language and the brain

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2012

April McMahon
Affiliation:
Aberystwyth University
Robert McMahon
Affiliation:
Aberystwyth University
Get access

Summary

Overview

Having considered the vocal tract, we now turn to another organ with a level of apparent specialisation for language, namely the human brain. There are two essential types of difference between the human brain and brains in other species: first, it is just vastly bigger than we would expect given human body size; and second, its internal structure and connectivity (as far as we can currently tell) are distinctive. In this chapter we shall provide a brief overview of the shape and function of the brain, and consider the evidence we have for linguistic specialisations and for brain evolution. As with the vocal tract, much of this evidence is indirect and interpretations vary; furthermore, much of the relevant neurolinguistic data is very new, so for the most part we shall be reviewing ongoing debates rather than coming to definite conclusions. In addition, we proposed right back in Chapter 1 that the human capacity for language cannot be understood as a single object of enquiry; rather, we have to engage with it on three levels at once if we hope to cast any light on how it emerged and how it works. Those three levels are the controlling genes; the physical or neurological structures they build in particular environments; and finally the phenotypic, surface systems or behaviours which these structures permit. It follows that evolved aspects of the human brain must have genetic underpinnings, and we turn to these in the next chapter.

Type
Chapter
Information
Evolutionary Linguistics , pp. 119 - 147
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×