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Title: Symbolic Species: The Co-evolutionof Language and the Brain, (The) (New York: W.W. Norton and Co.)
Authors: Deacon, Terrence
Date: 1997
Source: Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain, (The). New York: W. W. Norton and Co. 527 p.
Notes: J.I. Staley price recipient for 2005.
Abstract: Terrence Deacon's The Symbolic Species begins with a question posed by a 7-year-old child: Why can't animals talk? Or, as Deacon puts it, if animals have simpler brains, why can't they develop a simpler form of language to go with them? Thus begins the basic line of inquiry for this breathtakingly ambitious work, which attempts to describe the origins of human language and consciousness. What separates humans from animals, Deacon writes, is our capacity for symbolic representation. Animals can easily learn to link a sound with an object or an effect with a cause. But symbolic thinking assumes the ability to associate things that might only rarely have a physical correlation; think of the word "unicorn," for instance, or the idea of the future. Language is only the outward expression of this symbolic ability, which lays the foundation for everything from human laughter to our compulsive search for meaning. The final section of The Symbolic Species posits that human brains and human language have coevolved over millions of years, leading Deacon to the remarkable conclusion that many modern human traits were actually caused by ideas. Deacon's background in biological anthropology and neuroscience makes him a reliable companion through this complicated multidisciplinary turf. Rigorously researched and argued in dense but lively prose, The Symbolic Species is that rare animal, a book of serious science that's accessible to layman and scientist alike
Reviews: Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 55(2): 331-346
Pragmatics 33(1): 129-135
Psychologist 13(9): 466-467
American Journal of Human Biology 12(4): 574-575
Giornale Critico Della Filosofia Italiana 19(3): 463-471
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 5(1): 105-106
Zygon 34(1): 195-198
Times Literary Supplement 4986: 34
Modern Language Journal 82(3): 437-439
Nature 388(6644): 734
New York Times Book Review, Aug 10, 1997, p. 20-21
Library Journal 122(11): 92
Booklist 93: 1778
Choice 35: 505
New Scientist 156: 42-43
American Scientist 86: 184-186
Wilson Quarterly 21: 108
Yale Review 86(4): 128-139
Subjects: Brain -- Evolution
Neurolinguistics
Format: book
Online: View Google Book Search
Recipient of the 2005 Staley Prize
View Info on Publisher's website
Staley Prize Website
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