• Course Code:  OHL 01

  • Term:  spring2015

  • Open for Enrollment

  • Self-paced

  • Course Author(s)
    Prof. Shigeru Miyagawa - Massachusetts Institute of Technology University of Tokyo
Origin of human language1

Origins of Human Language - Birds, Monkeys, and Humans



  • Shigeru
    Shigeru Miyagawa
  • 1391783 1045532278805827 5069686229262466293 n
    Vitor Nóbrega


Enrollment is Open Now


In this course, we will look at the human language from the perspective of evolution: How did human language emerge in evolution? To get at this issue, we will look at a number of issues having to do with human language, the development of the brain, and a variety of proposals about language in evolution, including the Integration Hypothesis that the instructor recently proposed with colleagues.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course you should be able to:

            describe and explain the issues pertaining to language and evolution

            describe some of the brain regions that support language

            describe some major proposals for how language emerged in evolution

            describe the systems that underlie birdsong and primate communication

            describe and explain the basic components of a sentence

            explain how the integration hypothesis incorporates what we know about other systems that underlie communication

Assumed knowledge

No background is assumed. 



Throughout the course you will have the opportunity to complete assessable quizzes. These will be automatically marked.

Certificate of achievement

Participants who successfully complete the assessable aspects of the course will receive a generic certificate of achievement if you score at least 60% overall. Participants have the option of purchasing a Certificate of Achievement customized to include your name and signed by the instructor.


This is the first of the three part Origins of Human Language series. You can purchase certificates for all three courses at a special bundle price. Find the registration pages for series 2 and 3 below:

Series 2: Bird Song

Series 3: Primate Origins of Human Language


 Course options

You can choose how you interact with this course. Following registration you can:

a.  Study all of the content and complete the assessable quizzes. You will receive a certificate of achievement if you pass the assessment.

b.  Opt not to submit the assessment but participate in the course, accessing the lectures, content, and quizzes. You will not receive a certificate.



This is a “mini” MOOC intended to introduce some basic points about human language and evolution. There are six modules. Each module should take 30 minutes to 45 minutes to complete, including the quizzes. Beyond that, it is how much time you want to spend participating in the forum discussion.


Course structure

The six modules will be released every two days.


Getting Started

Take the time to prepare before lectures commence. Familiarize yourself with the site, watch the required videos, introduce yourself with a post to the forum, and join in the discussions.



Module 1: Introducing the basic issues

Module 2: Language and the brain

Module 3: Some hypotheses about language evolution

Module 4: Some basic facts about human language

Module 5: Primates and songbirds

Module 6: Integration Hypothesis


This is a Free course - all eligible students will have the option to purchase a $29 certificate signed by Professor Miyagawa that will be given at the end of the course with satisfactory performance.


If you take all three courses in the Origin of Human Language series, you'll have the option to purchase all three certificates at a special bundle price.


Shigeru Miyagawa is a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a joint appointment at the University of Tokyo.

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Origins of Human Language - Birds, Monkeys, and Humans


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