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How the Brain Got Language – The Mirror System Hypothesis - Oxford Scholarship Online
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How the Brain Got Language: The Mirror System Hypothesis

Michael A. Arbib


Unlike any other species, humans can learn and use language. This book explains how the brain evolved to make language possible, through what the text calls the Mirror System Hypothesis. Because of mirror neurons, monkeys, chimps, and humans can learn by imitation, but only “complex imitation,” which humans exhibit, is powerful enough to support the breakthrough to language. This theory provides a path from the openness of manual gesture, which we share with nonhuman primates, through the complex imitation of manual skills, pantomime, protosign (communication based on conventionalized manual g ... More

Keywords: language, Mirror System Hypothesis, mirror neuron, complex imitation, human, manual gesture, primate, cultural evolution, sign language

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2012 Print ISBN-13: 9780199896684
Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015 DOI:10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199896684.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Michael A. Arbib, author
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, Professor of Computer Science, Biological Sciences, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Neuroscience, and Psychology, and Director of the USC Brain Project