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Volume 4, Number 33Space HolderAug. 25, 2000

Lingua ex Machina book jacket

Lingua ex Machina: Reconciling Darwin and Chomsky with the Human Brain

Calvin coauthors book on language origins

How did humans evolve from creatures who babbled and gestured to those who think and plan in interior monologues? Some neurolinguists argue that this leap occurred when cerebral tissue reorganized and connected into networks in such a way that syntax -- the rules for linking words into intricate sentences -- could be formulated.

Theoretical neurobiologist William H. Calvin, an affiliate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and Derek Bickerton, a University of Hawaii linguist, teamed up to write a book that weaves different strands on the origin of human language. Their book, Lingua ex Machina: Reconciling Darwin and Chomsky with the Human Brain (MIT Press 2000) integrates theories in evolution, linguistics and neuroscience.

The authors look at the paradox of why humans were produced by the same forces as other species, yet are the only species to create civilizations. The book has been reviewed by Science, the New York Times Book Review, and William Safire's New York Times Magazine column "On Language."

Calvin is the author or co-author of 10 books, including The Cerebral Code, How Brains Think, and, with UW neurosurgeon George Ojemann, Conversations with Neil's Brain.

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