Finding Our Tongues

Finding Our Tongues

Mothers, Infants, and the Origins of Language
March 2009
Hardcover · 256 Pages
$26.95 U.S. · $31.00 CAN · £17.99 U.K. · €19.99 E.U.
ISBN 9780465002191
Basic Books


Franz de Waal, author of Our Inner Ape
“That language began with melodious vocal exchanges between mother and offspring is a most attractive idea. It connects language with love, reassurance, and early bodily rhythms. Instead of the traditional focus on words and grammar, Dean Falk's refreshing new theory has the added bonus of injecting music, another human universal, into the language debate.”

Publishers Weekly
“Readers interested in language acquisition may find Falk’s hypothesis thought provoking.”

Francisco Aboitiz PhD, Department of Psychiatry, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
“Finding Our Tongues is an entertaining book, which can be read by both specialists and non-specialists alike. Dean Falk convincingly argues in favor of the universality of motherese in human cultures, and proposes the bold hypothesis that the acquisition of baby talk in early humans represented a key development in language origins. This book will surely stimulate debate about deep and challenging questions on human nature.”

Psychology Today
“Drawing on an impressive array of data, from observations of chimpanzees to neuroimaging, Falk, an anthropologist, suggests that the mother-child relationship trained our ancestors for language, while also contributing to the development of music and art.”

New Scientist
“Falk makes a strong case that communication between mothers and babies is a linguistic crucible.”

The Nation
“The origin of language is a hot topic – contentious and impossible to prove, but hot. Falk points out that anthropologists have a blind spot where women and babies are concerned: it’s always assumed that the hunters and their toolmaking technologies drive evolution, but in the case of language the childcare hypothesis is more grounded in data than others…. The drab thought of our ancestors – hunger on the brain – hacking away at a deinotherium just doesn’t carry the same frisson as Falk’s theory, wherein motherese not only stimulates language but theory of mind – the recognition of intention, of personhood, in someone else.”

“[A] provocative hypothesis…. A conjecture certain to stir debate.”

Philadelphia Weekly
“Dean Falk’s Finding Our Tongues is set to make waves in the anthropological/ linguistic/ scientific community (watch out!) with a new theory of why we speak the way we do…. Prediction: The word ‘Motherese’ will move into popular parlance.”

The Boston Globe
“Original and full of implication…. Path-breaking.”

Scientific American Mind
“Finding Our Tongues…provides a fresh and different perspective on language and its mysterious origins.”

New York Review of Books
“[A] simple and largely convincing narrative, written with a…mix of academic authority, anecdotes, and flair…. [Finding Our Tongues] provide[s] delicious food for reflection. [It] show[s] how understanding ourselves today – our bodies, our minds, our behavior – can be achieved only by understanding our evolutionary past.”

American Journal of Physical Anthropology

“Dean Falk offers a totally fresh hypothesis for language origins that is presented in friendly, authoritative but not patronizing prose…. Besides being an impressive feat of thorough, multidisciplinary research that will inform many academics in the fields of primatology, linguistics, human evolution, ethnography, and archaeology, Finding our Tongues is an excellent entry point for general readers interested in language origins and evolution.”