Most helpful positive review
52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating and beautifully written
on June 4, 2011
Whether or not one agrees with the author's central theses, this is a fascinating and beautifully written book that brings together a wealth of information about how thinking and language have evolved in humans and how this differentiates homo sapiens from apes and other animals.
Corballis believes that animals, and primates in particular, communicate using gestures, and that this is the origin of spoken language in humans. He attributes this evolution to the emergence in homo sapiens of what he calls recursive thought, the ability to think forward and backward in time and to build mental scenarios based on what is remembered and foreseen.
The author builds his case methodically, with clear explanations of important concepts, such as recursion and the theory of mind, that never rely on technical jargon. He points out which basic building blocks of his theories are controversial and clearly defines how his theory builds on, and where it diverges from, the work of Noam Chomsky.
Corballis' writing is a pleasure to read, although witticisms and asides occasionally distract from his main story. While remaining easily accessible to anyone without a background in linguistics or cognitive psychology, there are 65 pages of notes, references and index to assist those who wish to delve more deeply into the subject.
One complaint: Note 5 for chapter 2 is missing and the numbering for all subsequent notes for the chapter are off by 1. This is disconcerting in a book published by one of our most respected academic presses.