Steven Pinker: Linguistics as a Window to Understanding the Brain

May 3, 2017 | | 20 comments

Steven Pinker – Psychologist, Cognitive Scientist, and Linguist at Harvard University

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.

The Floating University
Originally released September, 2011.

Additional Lectures:
Michio Kaku: The Universe in a Nutshell http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0NbBjNiw4tk

Joel Cohen: Joel Cohen: An Introduction to Demography (Malthus Miffed: Are People the Problem?) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2vr44C_G0-o
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20 Responses

  1. thank you for your post, I am working in Madagascar and preparing for a nation wide English language symposium on the roll out of a new -learner-centered curriculum. I have been on the look out for an introduction that would speak to/appeal to the intelligence and experience of English learners here. I am going to use some of your wonderfully distilled examples to illustrate second language acquisition -especially your bit about written vs spoken language. Thank you! I will send you my email addy -on a secure line . . . just in case you would like to contact me. Thank you again.

  2. What I find fascinating regarding linguistics as a computer programmer is how we can use assembly mnemonics and the language syntax to control the flow of electricity in a computers components. Here we find that language has mathematical properties.

  3. I disagree with the whole children don't have a tendency to communicate via "writing". Even humans as young as toddlers have a tendency towards drawing or scribbling as a form of expression – this is like babbling. It does take a little longer to develop the motor skills to perform this action, but should not be down played – writing and reading requires more thought and focus than speaking.

  4. actually people with less imagination like me tends to describe each object and if all have the same characteristics then none is odd ­čÖé .

  5. Phonology is more than that, it includes also intonation and accentuation. Our whole comprehension of language is based on phonology, because we can only understand what we hear.

  6. "Is the man who tall is in the room?" will never be formed by a child, but not necessarily because of universal grammar. One of the first things you're ought to learn is the basic structure of a sentence. "The man is in the room" is a sentence, "who is tall" is also a sentence just as well as "Is the man in the room?", but "who tall is" isn't. When children speak they don't put word after word but they build actual sentences. So they first build the sentence "Is the man in the room" and then they squeeze in the sentence "who is tall", not because they may or may not have learned that the word-by-word-rule does not apply rather than because it is just natural that they won't ever have the idea of moving just a word. It may seem simpler to us, but that's not how language is built. You can know that without having hard-wired rules. The genetic argumentation would imply that there is something like a gene that codes that we automaticly choose the structure dependent rule. That means that a mutation would be able to cause people starting to speak like in the false example, but that did never occur. Imagine how many genes would be necessary to form that universal grammar. One mutation would cause this whole structure to collapse. And it is quite a coincidence that all these genes existed from the point where humans where able to speak without mutating at all, for at least 100,000 years. I prefer to believe that the "universal grammar" comes out of the nature of how language has to work, that's why all languages share these principles.

  7. Unfortunately, NOAM
    CHOMSKY did not understand ANYTHING of language / linguistics, since he did not
    recognised the FOUR ROWS (p, t, k ánd w) of Goropius Becanus' SOUNDHELIX
    (german: Lauthelix; dutch: KLANKHELIX. Neither did Chomsky understand Becanus'
    rules (1) ADJECTIO (words grow longer at the end), (2) DETRACTIO (words solve
    at the beginning, which means Jacob Grimm describe a WRONG HISTORY of how
    people walked (not from Germany to France, but from France to Gemany, f.e.)
    Since (3) METATHESIS (turn around of sounds, syllabes and words) is known as
    INVERSION, there is (4) PERMUTATIO which Chomsky did not understand since
    ANS SCHAPENDONK did rediscover Goropius Becanus' theory of the MIDWIVES (i.c.
    Orphische Theologie) because the SNAKE (dutch 'slang') or THEOS means VOLK >
    VOLKS > VOLKSTAAL (eng. 'slang) and not only GOD. GOD is helixing out of KAT
    > CODE (mathematics) while the four rows (p, t, k and w) with a
    Little FIFTH one (a circle) based on a DOUBLE PENTAGRAM which forms a TIENKANT
    with a HEXA, a PENTA and a THREE-Corner (the eye of God). With the
    PERMUTATIO Becanus means (1) read from behind to the front and (2) get two of
    it.So out of MADAME > (m)ADAM > (dutch) ADEM > (german) ATEM
    / META (permutatio) > METAAL (iron > Israel) > MENTAAL > MIJN TAAL
    (my language) > (m)UNIEK INSTRUMENT!Linguistist did Forget PRATEN >
    (p)REDEN (which means TALK) that is helixing in Englisch READ (so the
    interference is that in one language to talk means to read!) So here is
    the CONFUSING THEORY of dutch 'wanorde' (chaos) > 'one orde(r)' since
    WAN = ONE, so the number 1 IS the number 0 which forms '10'. At least (5)
    DELIVERY (spatie, Leertaste, next word) follows (mentaal > mijn
    taal).Chomsky is REALISING that his 'theory' FAILED, but he is not so HONEST to
    MENTION the names of the discovering people: the MIDWIVES > BECANUS >
    SCHAPENDONK.The oldest language of the WORLD is DUTCH, i.c. FLEMISH (VLAM >
    olympics) because of KANAAN (country of the Kanus, boats, ships). So the people
    of PALESTINA are right, it is not the Country where the JEWS come from, since
    they were BORN in EUROPE! Good luck with organise PEACE by not telling the
    SECRETS in language!Ans Schapendonk (03.03.2017)Unfortunately, NOAM CHOMSKY did not understand
    ANYTHING of language / linguistics, since he did not recognised the FOUR ROWS
    (p, t, k ánd w) of Goropius Becanus' SOUNDHELIX (german: Lauthelix; dutch:
    KLANKHELIX. Neither did Chomsky understand Becanus' rules (1) ADJECTIO (words
    grow longer at the end), (2) DETRACTIO (words solve at the beginning, which
    means Jacob Grimm describe a WRONG HISTORY of how people walked (not from Germany
    to France, but from France to Gemany, f.e.) Since (3) METATHESIS (turn around
    of sounds, syllabes and words) is known as INVERSION, there is
    (4) PERMUTATIO which Chomsky did not understand since ANS SCHAPENDONK did
    rediscover Goropius Becanus' theory of the MIDWIVES (i.c. Orphische Theologie)
    because the SNAKE (dutch 'slang') or THEOS means VOLK > VOLKS > VOLKSTAAL
    (eng. 'slang) and not only GOD. GOD is helixing out of KAT > CODE
    (mathematics) while the four rows (p, t, k and w) with a Little FIFTH one
    (a circle) based on a DOUBLE PENTAGRAM which forms a TIENKANT with a HEXA, a
    PENTA and a THREE-Corner (the eye of God).

  8. I need to WORK! N this video changed everything in my mind!!!!!!!!!!! . . . . please help me out! . . . . I can't take this!

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