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Philip Lieberman, Human language and our reptilian brain: The subcortical bases of speech, syntax, and thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000. Pp. 221. Hb $39.95; Chris Knight, Michael Studdert-Kennedy, and James R. Hurford, The evolutionary emergence of language: Social function and the origins of linguistic form. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. xi, 426. Hb $74.95.

  • Greg Urban (a1)

The two volumes reviewed here thumb their noses at the 1866 ban by the Linguistic Society of Paris on publications concerning language origins – a ban imposed by those august guardians of public faith in linguistic science because of the disreputable, speculative, nonempirical character of language origins scholarship. Yet nose-thumbing has been on the rise in the past two decades, even alarmingly so. Why? Have we witnessed epochal new empirical or conceptual breakthroughs that would warrant the overturning of that sober 19th-century decision?

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Language in Society
  • ISSN: 0047-4045
  • EISSN: 1469-8013
  • URL: /core/journals/language-in-society
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