Culture

Linguistics as a Window to Understanding the Brain

by on January 23, 2015
 

Alice thought to herself, “There’s no use in speaking.”
The voices didn’t join in this time, as she hadn’t spoken, but, to her great surprise, they all thought in chorus… “Better say nothing at all. Language is worth a thousand pounds a word!”

– Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

In this immensely fascinating talk, Steven Pinker, cognitive scientist, linguistics professor at Harvard, and author of numerous books on the science of language, shows us that language is worth indeed a thousand pounds and a lot more. Taking cues from fields as diverse as history, neuroscience, geography, biology and psychology, Steven Pinker brings out the majesty and hidden secrets underlying the big question of how language works:

If language were really thought, it would raise the question of where language would come from if it were incapable of thinking without language. After all, the English language was not designed by some committeeof Martians who came down to Earth and gave it to us. Rather, language is a grassroots phenomenon. It’s the original wiki, which aggregates the contributions of hundreds of thousands of people who invent jargon and slang and new constructions, some of them get accumulated into the language as people seek out new ways of expressing their thoughts, and that’s how we get a language in the first place.

How did humans acquire language? In this lecture, best-selling author Steven Pinker introduces you to linguistics, the evolution of spoken language, and the debate over the existence of an innate universal grammar. He also explores why language is such a fundamental part of social relationships, human biology, and human evolution. Finally, Pinker touches on the wide variety of applications for linguistics, from improving how we teach reading and writing to how we interpret law, politics, and literature.

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