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The syntactic motor system

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The human brain has mechanisms that can support production and perception of language. We ground the evolution of these mechanisms in primate systems that support manual dexterity, especially the mirror system that integrates execution and observation of hand movements. We relate the motor theory of speech perception to the mirror system hypothesis for language and evolution; explore links between manual actions and speech; contrast “language” in apes with language in humans; show in what sense the “syntax” implemented in Broca’s area is a “motor syntax” far more general than the syntax of linguistics; and relate communicative goals to sentential form.

Keywords: articulatory control; imitation; language evolution; mirror system; motor control; protosign; protospeech; symbolization; syntax

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Università di Ferrara 2: Computer Science, Neuroscience and USC Brain Project, Los Angeles

Publication date: January 1, 2005

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