Saturday, September 24, 2016

Best-Selling Author's Book Engages In a Debate: Language May Not Have Come As A Result of Evolution

Just how, when, and why did humans obtain the ability of speech?  This is the focus of Tom Wolfe’s new book The Kingdom of Speech.

He opens the book quoting from an article published recently by major linguists, biologists, anthropologists, and computer scientists, in which it said:

“The most fundamental questions about the origins and evolution of our linguistic capacity remain as mysterious as ever.”

Wolfe believes that speech did not come as a result of Darwinian evolution. He says the claim by scientists that there’s a “language organ” in our brain is nonsense.  He sees no evidence that humans are hardwired for language.

The jacket of his book proclaims “Wolfe makes the captivating paradigm-shifting argument that speech-not evolution-is responsible for humanity’s complex societies and achievements.”

The flap-copy goes on to say: “He shows the endless importance of the outrageous outside in overturning our most cherished ideas about ourselves.  Provocative and fast-paced, Wolfe’s latest tour de force will have everyone talking.”

This inquiry into language leaves us a bit mystified.  Many people have studied the origins of speech and language and have come up with a number of theories though theories is what they are.  Noam Chomsky’s Syntactic Structures and other writings have sought to clarify matters but the debate rages on.

Language is what separates humans from all others – and recorded language makes learning in great detail possible. We have books, videos, podcasts, and many tools to hand down to generations – and on a mass scale.  Is the ape or dog able to learn from others without such tools?

So how did humans even come to write what made them even think of writing things down?

Wolfe’s book both intrigued and bored me, but the topic is a lively one worth exploring. Language allows us to manipulate our lives, to express what we feel, imagine and know. By transferring these ideas and facts to each other we create a common society that can work together to advance our lives at a far greater pace than if we just lived on our own in the wild.

I don’t know where language, speech, or writing come from, but I’m sure glad they exist and that we have the capacity to share in them.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.

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