The culture ready brain

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In this article, I examine two hypotheses of language origins: the extended mirror system hypothesis and the vocal grooming hypothesis. These conflict in several respects, partly because their authors were trained in different disciplines and influenced by different kinds of evidence. I note some ethnographic/linguistic and psychological issues which, in my view, have not been sufficiently considered by these authors, and present a ‘play and display’ hypothesis which aims to explain the evolution, not of language, but of the ‘culture ready brain’—with apologies to Arbib for so extending his original concept. In the second half of the article, I will test all three hypotheses against the available fossil, archaeological and neuroimaging evidence.

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