Why Chimpanzees Can't Learn Language and Only Humans Can - Leonard Hastings Schoff Lectures (Hardback)Herbert S. Terrace (author)
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In this book, Terrace revisits Project Nim to offer a novel view of the origins of human language. In contrast to both Noam Chomsky and his critics, Terrace contends that words, as much as grammar, are the cornerstones of language. Retracing human evolution and developmental psychology, he shows that nonverbal interaction is the foundation of infant language acquisition, leading up to a child's first words. By placing words and conversation before grammar, we can, for the first time, account for the evolutionary basis of language. Terrace argues that this theory explains Nim's inability to acquire words and, more broadly, the differences between human and animal communication. Why Chimpanzees Can't Learn Language and Only Humans Can is a masterful statement of the nature of language and what it means to be human.
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Number of pages: 248
Dimensions: 216 x 140 mm
In this work, the distinguished psychologist Herbert S. Terrace illustrates a unique comparative perspective on the nature and evolution of language. -- Charles Yang, author of The Infinite Gift: How Children Learn and Unlearn the Languages of the World
Language seems to be a miracle; even our closest relatives, the great apes, lack any capacity for the grammatical structures that make human language unique. Herbert Terrace goes further and shows that chimpanzees can't even learn words. With characteristic clarity, he gives a convincing account of language evolution in Darwinian terms, without appeal to miracles. This is an important new approach to an old and vexed problem. -- Michael Corballis, author of The Truth About Language: What It Is and Where It Came From
Terrace played a very significant role in ape language research. His personal reflections and the conclusions he has drawn about language remain both controversial and relevant. -- Terrence W. Deacon, author of The Symbolic Species: The Coevolution of Language and the Brain
The idea that animals can be taught language is perennially appealing, driven by a longing to get into their heads, a desire to challenge human pride, and the misconception that Darwinism predicts that all organisms are the same. But humans are outliers among the primates, with cognitive, social, and linguistic talents that are as outsize as other flamboyant adaptations in the animal kingdom. Herb Terrace, who knows a thing or two about what animals can be taught, restores perspective to this issue in this insightful and wide-ranging reminiscence and analysis. -- Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and the author of The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works
A provocative and comprehensible book about an important and complex topic. -- David P. Barash * Wall Street Journal *
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