The Evolving Mirror System: A Neural Basis for Language Readiness
This chapter outlines a language evolution perspective based on comparison with nonhuman primates, but with a focus on brain anatomy. It argues that biological evolution resulted in a number of pre-adaptations leading to a language-ready brain. One of the key pre-adaptations on this account is the evolution of a mirror system, providing a link between the production and perception of motor acts. The mirror system has been studied extensively in monkeys where it is found in an area of monkey cortex that is considered to be homologous to Broca's area in the human brain — an area that appears to play an important role in human language. Following the evolution of a unique human ability for complex imitation, this chapter proposes that language originated in a system of manual gestures, and only later evolved into a primarily spoken form. The chapter concludes by suggesting that syntax emerged as the result of subsequent cultural evolution.
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