Linguistics and the Human Sciences, Vol 2, No 1 (2006)

Protolanguage, Mirror Neurons, and the "Front-Heavy" Brain: Explorations in the Evolution and Functional Organization of Language

Robin Melrose
Issued Date: 12 Mar 2007


In recent years, linguistic research into protolanguage and interpersonal semantics, and neuroscientific research into mirror neurons and the central role of the prefrontal cortex in language processing have provided new insights into how language may have evolved and how it may be functionally organized. This paper attempts to draw together these two strands of research by linking (1) studies of the neural processing of attitude, evaluation and theory of mind to the evolution of interpersonal semantics, and (2) research into mirror neurons and the processing of verbs and nouns to the evolution of ideational semantics. The paper then goes on to investigate the role of the prefrontal cortex in the functional organization of language, concluding that although language is widely distributed in the brain, there is some evidence for distinct ideational and interpersonal pathways in the brain controlled by the prefrontal cortex.

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DOI: 10.1558/lhs.v2i1.89


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