Public lecture by Michael Corballis

2 October 2018

Michael Corballis

Where did language come from?

A public lecture by Michael Corballis, Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Auckland

From the Bible to Chomsky, language is a miracle, unique to humans, and emerging as a single event, initially in a single individual, within the past 100,000 years.

In this lecture, Professor Corballis will argue instead for a Darwinian approach. Language evolved primarily to allow our species, and its forebears, to communicate about the nonpresent and share mental travels in space and time. Mental time travel itself goes far back in evolution, and our capacity to communicate about it emerged through gesture and pantomime, gradually refining into the miniaturized form of gesture that we call speech.

Michael Corballis is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of Auckland. He was born and educated in New Zealand, then obtained his PhD from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, where he taught for some years before returning to Auckland. In 2016 he received the Rutherford Medal of the Royal Society of New Zealand for his work on brain asymmetry, language evolution, and mental time travel. His latest book is The Truth about Language, published by University of Chicago Press in 2017.