Speaking, like breathing, is something we do every day without thinking. And just like breathing, speech is the result of a complicated dance between neural mechanisms and muscle responses. Although everybody makes use of language--in some form or another--little is actually understood about what it is or how it began. In Eve Spoke
, Philip Lieberman, a professor of cognitive science and linguistics, outlines his own theories about this mysterious subject. From development of the human vocal tract to the latest models of where language skills occur in the brain, Lieberman covers the physical aspects of producing speech. He then tries to explain just how
the brain puts it all together to create meaning from sound.
From Library Journal
The debate over the origin of language shows little sign of cooling in this millennium. Contributing to the discourse, Lieberman (cognition and linguistics, Brown Univ.) examines both archaeological evidence and data derived from neurological imaging technology to bolster the "Eve hypothesis." According to Lieberman, Homo sapiens most likely evolved from an African ancestor about 150,000 years ago. A comparison of fossil vocal tracts (reconstructed from castings) with those of modern humans, moreover, suggests that the Neanderthals had limited capacity for speech and may thus have lost the selection battle to our more loquacious ancestors. Lieberman synthesizes a variety of research (including studies on Parkinson's disease and the effects of hypoxia on mountain climbers) to challenge Chomsky's Universal Grammar theory, most recently popularized in Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct (LJ 2/1/94). He argues that the "neural bases of human speech, motor control, and syntax appear to be linked together in a functional language system" characterized by "neural circuits" that are learned rather than transmitted as genetic blueprints. Lieberman's book is carefully reasoned and written with both clarity and a sense of adventure that will appeal to the general reader.?Laurie Bartolini, MacMurray Coll. Lib., Jacksonville, Ill.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.