Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man

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BenBella Books, Inc., Aug 2, 2011 - Science - 216 pages
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The scientific consensus is that our ability to understand human speech has evolved over hundreds of thousands of years. After all, there are whole portions of the brain devoted to human speech. We learn to understand speech too quickly and with almost no training and can seamlessly absorb enormous amounts of information simply by hearing it. Surely we evolved this capability over thousands of generations.

Or did we? Portions of the human brain are also devoted to reading. Children learn to read at a very young age and can seamlessly absorb information even more quickly through reading than through hearing. We know that we didn’t evolve to read because reading is only a few thousand years old.

In "Harnessed," cognitive scientist Mark Changizi demonstrates that human speech has been very specifically “designed” to harness the sounds of nature, sounds we’ve evolved over millions of years to readily understand. Long before humans evolved, mammals have learned to interpret the sounds of nature to understand both threats and opportunities. Our speech—regardless of language—is very clearly based on the sounds of nature.

Even more fascinating, Changizi shows that music itself is based on natural sounds. Music—seemingly one of the most human of inventions—is literally built on sounds and patterns of sound that have existed since the beginning of time.


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Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man

User Review  - Cynthia Knight - Book Verdict

Many scientists believe that the human brain's capacity for language is innate, that the brain is actually "hard-wired" for this higher-level functionality. But theoretical neurobiologist Changizi ... Read full review

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Borrowed this book from the e-library but there are no figures in this copy - oh the author refers to them, and explains them, but no visuals. Yet chapter headings do have simple graphics above them. What went wrong in this edition for e-readers?


INTRODUCTION The Reading Instinct
Speech Events
Soylent Music
Musical Movement
APPENDIX Word Events

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About the author (2011)

Mark Changizi is an evolutionary neurobiologist aiming to grasp the ultimate foundations underlying why we think, feel and see as we do. His research focuses on "why" questions, and he has made important discoveries such as on why we see in color, why we see illusions, why we have forward-facing eyes, why letters are shaped as they are, why the brain is organized as it is, why animals have as many limbs and fingers as they do, and why the dictionary is organized as it is.

He attended the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, and then went on to the University of Virginia for a degree in physics and mathematics, and to the University of Maryland for a PhD in math. In 2002, he won a prestigious Sloan-Swartz Fellowship in Theoretical Neurobiology at Caltech, and in 2007, he became an assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In 2010, he took the post of Director of Human Cognition at a new research institute called 2ai Labs.

He has more than 30 scientific journal articles, some of which have been covered in news venues such as The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and Wired. He has written three books, The Brain From 25,000 Feet (Kluwer 2003), The Vision Revolution (BenBella 2009), and Harnessed(BenBella 2011).

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