|Date:||October 28, 2011|
|Location:||Palazzo Ducale; Genoa, Italy|
|Event:||Finding Our Tongues: Mothers, Infants & the Origins of Language|
This talk explores the physical and neurological transition between our early ancestors’ divergence from other primates, five million to seven million years ago, and their invention of the first language (protolanguage) millions of years later. Clues about the emergence of protolanguage appear every day in modern infants and toddlers. While infants are learning to speak, parents spontaneously talk to them in a special way—known as baby talk, musical speech, or motherese. Motherese helps babies learn their native languages from the moment they are born until they are walking, talking toddlers—and this process has much to reveal about the emergence of language among our species. Had motherese not been invented by prehistoric mothers and infants, our species would not have produced great geniuses like Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, or Marie Curie. None of us, in fact, would have developed minds capable of contemplating the mystery of our origins.