We welcome you to the open lecture of Professor Michael Corballis, held as a part of the 3rd International Conference "Neurobiology of Speech and Language". Simultaneous English-Russian translation will be provided.
When: June 3, 18.30
Where: 22-ya Liniya V.O., 7, Assembly Hall
Michael C. Corballis
University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
From the Bible to Chomsky, language has long been considered unique to humans, emerging in a single step, even in a single individual, in defiance of Darwinian principles. I argue that language emerged primarily as a means to communicate about events removed from the present (the property of displacement), which in turn is based on a capacity for mental time travel, also widely regarded as uniquely human. Recent evidence suggests, to the contrary, that mental time travel has a long evolutionary history, and is demonstrable in many species, including birds, mammals, and perhaps even insects and cephalopods. The capacity to communicate mental time travels arose much later in social animals, emerging from intentional bodily action rather than from vocal calls. It reached a high level of sophistication in humans, probably in a gradual progression from gestural communication in apes, through to pantomime in early hominins, and becoming increasingly grammaticalized, conventionalized, and (in most individuals) vocalized in the genus Homo. The progression from mental time travel to modern human language can be understood in terms of Darwinian evolution, and need not imply any sudden, miraculous origin.