In his groundbreaking new book Daniel Everett seeks answers to questions that have perplexed thinkers from Plato to Chomsky: when and how did language begin? What is it? And what is it for?
Daniel Everett confounds the conventional wisdom that language originated with Homo sapiens 150,000 years ago and that we have a 'language instinct'. Drawing on evidence from a wide range of fields, including linguistics, archaeology, biology, anthropology and neuroscience, he shows that our ancient ancestors, Homo erectus, had the biological and mental equipment for speech one and half million years ago, and that their cultural and technological achievements (including building ocean-going boats) make it overwhelmingly likely they spoke some kind of language.
How Language Began sheds new light on language and culture and what it means to be human and, as always, Daniel Everett spices his account with incident and anecdote. His book is convincing, arresting and entertaining.
Very few books on the biological and cultural origin of humanity can be ranked as classics. I believe that Daniel Everett's How Language Began will be one of them. (Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University)
How Language Began occupies a rare literary space that explains complex issues clearly to general readers while being an original contribution to scholarship...the arguments he marshals and insights he provides are impressive...anyone interested in language would gain from reading this book. (Oliver Kamm Times)
Ambitious...the subject-matter is completely enthralling...Everett is at the very top of his intellectual game. (Harry Ritchie Spectator)
Important and fascinating (Adrian Woolfson Prospect)
Everett is skilled at leavening an intellectually challenging treatise with humor ... A worthy book for general readers (Kirkus Reviews)
When I first became interested in cultural evolution, cognitive revolutionaries would say that Noam Chomsky had proved that an innate language acquisition device was the key to linguistics. Daniel Everett is a leader of the counterrevolution that is putting culture and cultural evolution back at the center of linguistics, and cognition more generally, where I think it belongs. How Language Began is an accessible account of the case for a culture-centered theory of language. (Peter Richerson, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California Davis)