All Shops

Go to British Wildlife

6 issues per year 84 pages per issue Subscription only

British Wildlife is the leading natural history magazine in the UK, providing essential reading for both enthusiast and professional naturalists and wildlife conservationists. Published six times a year, British Wildlife bridges the gap between popular writing and scientific literature through a combination of long-form articles, regular columns and reports, book reviews and letters.

Subscriptions from £25 per year

Conservation Land Management

4 issues per year 44 pages per issue Subscription only

Conservation Land Management (CLM) is a quarterly magazine that is widely regarded as essential reading for all who are involved in land management for nature conservation, across the British Isles. CLM includes long-form articles, events listings, publication reviews, new product information and updates, reports of conferences and letters.

Subscriptions from £18 per year
Academic & Professional Books  Evolutionary Biology  Human Evolution & Anthropology

Lingua ex Machina Reconciling Darwin and Chomsky with the Human Brain

Out of Print
By: William H Calvin and Derek Bickerton
298 pages, 50 illus
Publisher: MIT Press
Lingua ex Machina
Click to have a closer look
Select version
  • Lingua ex Machina ISBN: 9780262032735 Hardback Mar 2000 Out of Print #106840
About this book Biography Related titles

About this book

A machine for language? Certainly, say the neurophysiologists, busy studying the specializations of the human brain and trying to indentify their evolutionary antecedents. Linguists such as Noam Chomsky talk about machine-like "modules" in the brain for syntax, arguing that language is more an instinct (a complex behaviour triggered by simple environmental stimuli) than an acquired skill like riding a bicycle. But structured language presents the same evolutionary problems as feathered forelimbs for flight: you need a lot of specializations to fly even a little bit. How do you get them, if evolution has no foresight and the intermediate stages do not have intermediate payoffs? Some say that the Darwinian scheme for gradual species self-improvement cannot explain our most valued human capability, the one that sets us so far above the apes, language itself. William Calvin and Derek Bickerton suggest that other evolutionary developments, not directly related to language, allowed language to evolve in a way that eventually promoted a Chomskian syntax. They compare these intermediate behaviours to the curb-cuts originally intended for wheelchair users. Their usefulness was soon discovered by users of strollers, shopping carts, rollerblades and so on. The authors argue that reciprocal altruism and ballistic movement planning were "curb-cuts" that indirectly promoted the formation of structured language. Written in the form of a dialogue set in Bellagio, Italy, "Lingua ex Machina" presents an engaging challenge to those who view the human capacity for language as a winner-take-all war between Chomsky and Darwin.

Customer Reviews


Derek Bickerton is Professor of Linguistics, Emeritus, at the University of Hawaii, Honolulu. He is the author of Roots of Language, Language and Species, and Language and Human Behavior.
Out of Print
By: William H Calvin and Derek Bickerton
298 pages, 50 illus
Publisher: MIT Press
Media reviews
This book is witty, opinionated and deeply clever, a wonderful introduction to one of the most controversial issues in the study of mind. The New York Times Book Review
Current promotions
Field Guide SalePelagic PublishingBritish WildlifeOrder your free copy of our 2018 equipment catalogue