#8 Michael Corballis - Language Evolved Before Humans Did

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What are the origins of language? What role did evolution play in it?

In this episode, Micheal Corballis backs up the idea that languages evolved gradually and some version of it existed much before Homo Sapiens arrived on the scene.
About the guest

Michael Corballis is an emeritus professor at the Department of Psychology at the University of Auckland. His research interests intersect cognitive neuroscience with language and evolution. He is deeply interested in big questions such as how did language evolve, why our brain is asymmetrical and what it means to be human. He has authored several books on language and mind.

What we talk about

1:23 – What led you to be curious about the evolution of language?
2:49 – Why are our brains asymmetrical?
6:36 – Noam Chomsky’s work on the evolution of language
8:26 – Did language emerge suddenly?
13:25 – How did language evolve?
15:17 – Did the evolution of language start from gestural communication?
17:34 – Transition from gestural communication to vocal
20:34 – How do we prove the evolution of language when there is no archeological evidence?
23:47 – Why did we not stop at gestural communication?
28:35 – Theory of mind is a critical part of language
31:29 – Mental time-travel and theory of mind in language for humans
36:53 – Is there a connection between our open-ended imagination and language being generative?
39:50 – What aspects of language differentiate humans from other animals
41:03 – Do we think in languages?
42:29 – Which language do differently-abled people think?
44:45 – Language is not essential for thoughts, it is just a way for communicating
45:34 – Why do we have so many languages?
49:47 – Is there any language inherently better than any other language?
52:53 – How do children pick up any language without formal teaching?
54:37 – Why is there better adoption of vocal language than written language?
58:20 – What is the future of language?

Dive into Michael Corballis’ research

TEDx talk on language origins
Publications
Books written

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