The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Human Brain
Terrence Deacon, fresh from mingling pig and rat brains in his xenotransplantation lab, shows how humans are unique in the use of language and how, through “symbolic reference” complex networks in the highly developed frontal cortex allow us to think using symbols. This book is in three parts: “Language” focuses on the nature of language and why it is confined to humans, “Brain” shows how the brain produces language, and “Co-evolution” allows a synthesis of conclusions about how both have evolved.
Deacon pinpoints language as starting two million years ago, crediting Homo habilis and Homo erectus with language capability. He describes how quirks of language use such as jokes are fascinating because they provide an insidiously logical punchline that we are unable to anticipate or predict. Mice have a proportionately larger brain than humans do, but the human brain is not better because it is big. It is because humans