The relationship between language, thought and culture is of concern to anyone with an interest in what it means to be human.
The Language Puzzle explains how the invention of words at 1.6 million years ago began the evolution of human language from the ape-like calls of our earliest ancestors to our capabilities of today, with over 6000 languages in the world and each of us knowing over 50,000 words.
Drawing on the latest discoveries in archaeology, linguistics, psychology, and genetics, Steven Mithen reconstructs the steps by which language evolved; he explains how it transformed the nature of thought and culture, and how we talked our way out of the Stone Age into the world of farming and swiftly into today's Digital Age.
While this radical new work is not shy to reject outdated ideas about language, it builds bridges between disciplines to forge a new synthesis for the evolution of language that will find widespread acceptance as a new standard account for how humanity began.
Steven Mithen is Professor of Early Prehistory at the University of Reading. He previously studied at the Slade School of Fine Art and the Universities of Sheffield, York and Cambridge, before joining the University of Reading. An award-winning archaeologist, Steven Mithen specialises in prehistoric hunter-gatherers and the earliest Neolithic farmers, with long-term field projects in southern Jordan and western Scotland. He is a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books, New York Review of Books, New Scientist and the Guardian and has authored over 200 academic articles and books, including The Singing Neanderthals and After the Ice. He was elected as a Fellow of the British Academy in 2004.
Praise for The Singing Neanderthals: 'Illuminating and thought-provoking * The Times *
The most perspicacious portrait of the role of communication among our remote predecessors that I have ever encountered ... A landmark book * New York Review of Books *
Wonderfully evocative ... A highly original view of our musical origins * Guardian *
A book that has you making up your own theories about how grunts became speech and songs -- Doris Lessing