The utter relativism of definitions

I'm always surprised how contentious definitions, can be.  How opinions about what are essentially sounds in language become matters of intense debate. When the IAU (International Astronomical Union) redefined the word "planet" to exclude Pluto, which came about due to the discovery of Eris, a similarly sized body, many people reacted with intense emotion, igniting … Continue reading The utter relativism of definitions

Steven Pinker: Using Grammar as a Tool, Not as a Weapon

I listened to this Point of Inquiry podcast at lunch today, and thought many of you might find it interesting: Steven Pinker: Using Grammar as a Tool, Not as a Weapon | Point of Inquiry. The English language is often treated as delicate and precious, and disagreements about what is “proper English” go back as far … Continue reading Steven Pinker: Using Grammar as a Tool, Not as a Weapon

Chimpanzees have language

I've read in several places that language is the last uniquely human characteristic.  Well, it turns out chimps communicate with a language of gestures: Researchers Translate the Meaning of Over 60 Gestures Used by Chimps. In the first systematic study of a non-human primate language, scientists from St. Andrew's University have deciphered the meaning of 66 wild … Continue reading Chimpanzees have language

The ages of communication

I think I've mentioned before that I only recently came the realization that the scientific revolution was more a matter of increased communication than necessarily a breakthrough in method.  Along the lines of this realization, I have a few thoughts about communication and its effects on human history. Humans are social animals.  Communication between and among … Continue reading The ages of communication

Language structure: You’re born with it — ScienceDaily

More evidence that we are not born blank slates, and that language is probably very ancient, developing over hundreds of thousands, if not millions of years. Humans are unique in their ability to acquire language. But how? A new study shows that we are in fact born with the basic fundamental knowledge of language, thus shedding … Continue reading Language structure: You’re born with it — ScienceDaily

Talking Neanderthals challenge the origins of speech

I've posted before about how I think that language is very ancient, probably evolving over hundreds of thousands of years, possibly millions.  The evidence for this view continues to mount.  It now looks like there's stronger evidence that Neanderthals could talk. We humans like to think of ourselves as unique for many reasons, not least … Continue reading Talking Neanderthals challenge the origins of speech