Robert C. Berwick and Noam Chomsky

discuss

Why Only Us:
Language and Evolution

$5 tickets on sale now

This event includes a book signing

Date

Apr
25
Monday
April 25, 2016
7:00 PM
(Doors at 6:30)

Location

First Parish Church
1446 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

$5.00 - On Sale Now

Harvard Book Store welcomes ROBERT C. BERWICK, Professor of Computational Linguistics and Computer Science and Engineering at MIT, and renowned author, logician, and philospher NOAM CHOMSKY for a discussion of their book, Why Only Us: Language and Evolution.

About Why Only Us

We are born crying, but those cries signal the first stirring of language. Within a year or so, infants master the sound system of their language; a few years after that, they are engaging in conversations. This remarkable, species-specific ability to acquire any human language—"the language faculty"—raises important biological questions about language, including how it has evolved. This book by two distinguished scholars—a computer scientist and a linguist—addresses the enduring question of the evolution of language.

Robert Berwick and Noam Chomsky explain that until recently the evolutionary question could not be properly posed, because we did not have a clear idea of how to define "language" and therefore what it was that had evolved. But since the Minimalist Program, developed by Chomsky and others, we know the key ingredients of language and can put together an account of the evolution of human language and what distinguishes us from all other animals.

Berwick and Chomsky discuss the biolinguistic perspective on language, which views language as a particular object of the biological world; the computational efficiency of language as a system of thought and understanding; the tension between Darwin's idea of gradual change and our contemporary understanding about evolutionary change and language; and evidence from nonhuman animals, in particular vocal learning in songbirds.

Praise

"Explaining the origins of the unique is famously difficult. Through elegantly showing the simplicity of the underlying mechanism, Berwick and Chomsky adroitly surmount this problem in the case of that most remarkable of all human uniquenesses, our possession of language." —Ian Tattersall, author of The Strange Case of the Rickety Cossack: And Other Cautionary Tales from Human Evolution

"Berwick and Chomsky, masters of language and computer science, make a daring proposition: the phenomenon 'human language' arose when the brain evolved to instantiate the simple operation 'Merge.' At this crucial moment the complex trait, which led to a new mode of evolution, fell into place. The book is captivating and a must for everyone interested in evolution and humans. It is a landmark that will define future research." —Martin Nowak, Professor of Mathematics and Biology, Harvard University

Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky has taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is currently Institute Professor (Emeritus) in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, for the past 50 years. His work is widely credited with having revolutionized the field of modern linguistics. Chomsky is the author of numerous best-selling political works, which have been translated into scores of languages worldwide. Among his most recent books are Hegemony or Survival, Failed States, Hopes and Prospects, and Masters of Mankind. Haymarket Books recently released twelve of his classic works in new editions. His latest books are What Kind of Creatures Are We? and Who Rules the World?

Robert C. Berwick
Robert C. Berwick

Robert C. Berwick

Robert C. Berwick is Professor of Computational Linguistics and Computer Science and Engineering, in the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems and the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society at MIT and the author of Computational Complexity and Natural Language and The Acquisition of Syntactic Knowledge, both published by the MIT Press.

Tickets are also available at Harvard Book Store and over the phone at 617-661-1515. Unless the event is sold out, any remaining tickets will be on sale at the door of the venue when doors open.

Tickets are non-refundable and non-returnable.

First Parish Church
1446 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, cross Mass. Ave. and look for the newsstand called Crimson Corner. Turn right and proceed north along Mass. Ave. going toward the Cambridge Common. You will pass the Harvard Coop, Bank of America, and CVS. The First Parish Church is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Church St. Please enter through the front door of the church.

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FAQ:

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Signing Guidelines

Out of respect for our authors' limited time tonight, the book signing will be limited to copies of Why Only Us. No other books or memorabilia, and no photography or video during the signing. Thank you!

Purchase the Book
Featured event books will be for sale at the event for 20% off. Thank you for supporting this author series with your purchases.
General Info
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info@harvard.com

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