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Self Evolving Minds & Machines
The Social Brain
The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. (Robert Pirsig)
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    The Social Brain Speaks: Lessons in Language
    There is no doubt that language offers both demonstrations of and a special window into the social brain, and human nature in general. Watching Dr. Paul Bloom's lecture on language at Open Yale Courses, I learned a number of intriguing facts about our linguistic faculty:

    (1) Babies who are not spoken to directly (though are around speaking) seem to develop the same capacity for language as those babies who are addressed on a regular basis. There appears to be no interesting influence of parental speech rearing on the ability for babies to normally develop the miracle of speech. (But, why would anyone not talk to their babies? Some cultures see this as senseless because 'what does the baby have to say?')

    (2) In Nicaragua, there are documented cases of children who have created their own individual sign language out of the need for better means of communication because their parents, who do not know sign language, possess a broken form of spoken language.

    (3) All neurologically normal humans, who at least hear language or have another person to communicate to, can develop normal speech abilities.

    (4) There has never been a human culture discovered that does not possess and use language.

    (5) Children of slaves who spoke "pidgin," or a broken-up mishmash of different languages which is not a fully developed language (created by the desire to communicate between slaves with different tongues), were able to produce a full-blown linguistic system (often called "creole") with phonology, morphology, and syntax. The ability to manufacture a language in a single generation from parents with an incomplete one, seems to suggest that humans have some inborn capacity for language. For, how else do we satisfactorily explain this phenomenon?

    (6) There are a number of completely intelligent children who are social beings with a strong desire to communicate, who simply cannot learn language. This can be attributed, perhaps, to genetic defects, as one could have a genetic defect that might cause one to see the world differently as in color blindness.

    For 6 more unusual facts about human language and a link to a transcript of Dr. Bloom's lecture please go here: The Social Brain.

    Tue, Jun 2, 2009  Permanent link

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