Humans evolved a brain with an extraordinary knack for language, but just how and when we began using language is still largely a mystery. Early human communication may have been in sign language or song, and scientists are studying other animals to learn how human language evolved.
Tagged with “linguistics” (13)
With Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University.
Chair: Matthew Taylor, chief executive, RSA
For Steven Pinker, the brilliance of the mind lies in the way it uses just two processes to turn the finite building blocks of our language into infinite meanings. The first is metaphor: we take a concrete idea and use it as a stand-in for abstract thoughts. The second is combination: we combine ideas according to rules, like the syntactic rules of language, to create new thoughts out of old ones.
How can a choice of metaphors start a war, impeach a president, or win an election? How does a mind that evolved to think about rocks and plants and enemies think about love and physics and democracy? How do we control the amount of information that we absorb? And what good does this actually do us?
Join Steven Pinker as he tries to answer these questions and many more, unlocking the hidden workings of our thoughts, our emotions and our social relationships and showing us that language really can tell us unexpected and fascinating things about ourselves.
Robert McCrum is the associate editor of The Observer (London) and co-author of the bestseller The Story of English, a history of the English language, that went on to be adapted into an Emmy Award-winning nine-part PBS television series. He is the author of six works of fiction, including In the Secret State and Mainland. Among his nonfiction books are the acclaimed biography Wodehouse: A Life and the memoir My Year Off: Recovering Life after a Stroke. In Globish, McCrum argues, "that a seismic shift in the foundations of our lingua franca has transformed [British and American English] from an expression of Anglo-American cultural sovereignty into a supra-national phenomenon, with its own powerful inner dynamic." (recorded 6/10/2010)
Steven Pinker discusses the interplay of language and the mind and how psychological processes have shaped the English language.
The best stuff is about using Google’s enormous database of word-from-books to track how language evolves over time, in particular the gradual erosion of irregular forms in English (keep/kept and drive/drove) in favour of their regular counterparts (beep/beeped and jive/jived).
Which you WILL want to follow up with a visit to Google Ngrams - http://ngrams.googlelabs.com/ - essentially Google Trends but with all written words in the English language for the last 1,000 years (instead of all search terms in the last ten years).
Evolving English shows very clearly that there is no single story of the English language. David Crystal explores aspects of its evolution. Introduced by Roger Walshe. From the Evolving English exhibition at the British Library.
October 26 2007 - A discussion on Point of Inquiry - Pinker explores what our use of language can tell us about human nature. He discusses our use of metaphors, and what concepts may be innate, how the “language of thought” may be hard-wired in our brains. He also explains how to avoid the pitfalls of such hard-wiring, using the methods of science as the model.
Twittering, tweeting, twirting—it’s rare to see a whole new body of language appear right before your eyes. But that’s what’s happening with Twitter. We discuss the snappy new shorthand of the twitterati. Also, why do people feel compelled to say “Polly wanna cracker?” whenever they see a parrot? And is it ever okay to end a sentence with a preposition?
And The Winner Is…January 27, 2010 - In So Many Words
Steve Goff is one of more than 100,000 people in Canada who have aphasia. And yet the general public knows very little or nothing about it. Steve wants to change this. And although his words are broken, his message is clear. This week’s podcast features award-winning documentary "In So Many Words." It was produced for The Sunday Edition by Teresa Goff, Steve’s daughter.
20 Minutes 30 Seconds
How Computers and the Internet are Re-programming Human Behaviour.
A story of a collective linguistic experiment in which a clever Scotsman harnesses the power of Twitter for the greater grammatical good.
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