Great Big Ideas: Top Thinkers Tackling the World’s Most Important Ideas

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Great Big Ideas: A Window Into The Human Mind

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 purpose of The Floating University, according to its site, is to “democratize access to the world’s best thinkers” by providing  a wide range of topics, taught at a university level by experts and professors in the various fields.

The Floating University
Originally released September, 2011

 

This New York Times bestseller is an exciting and fearless investigation of language

Bestselling Harvard psychology professor Pinker (The Blank Slate) investigates what the words we use tell us about the way we think. Language, he concludes, reflects our brain structure, which itself is innate. Similarly, the way we talk about things is rooted in, but not identical to, physical reality: human beings take the analogue flow of sensation the world presents to them and package their experience into objects and events.

Examining how we do this, the author summarizes and rejects such linguistic theories as extreme nativism and radical pragmatism as he tosses around terms like content-locative and semantic reconstrual that may seem daunting to general readers. But Pinker, a masterful popularizer, illuminates this specialized material with homely illustrations.

 

 

Language Is a Window into the Mind

What I basically try to do is understand human nature, how the mind works, what makes us tick.  What are the patterns of thought, and emotion and motivation that characterize our species?  I focus on language partly because you can’t make a living out of studying human nature.

 

How We Speak Reveals What We Think, with Steven Pinker

Language is one of the fundamental topics in the human sciences.  It’s the trait that most conspicuously distinguishes humans from other species, it’s essential to human cooperation; we accomplish amazing things by sharing our knowledge or coordinating our actions by means of words.  

 

How Children Learn Language

Children can’t memorize sentences because knowledge of language isn’t just one long list of memorized sentences, but somehow they must distill out or abstract out the rules that go into assembling sentences based on what they hear coming out of their parent’s mouths when they were little.  And the talent of using rules to produce combinations is in evidence from the moment that kids begin to speak.  
Children create sentences unheard from adults

 

Steven Pinker on Human Nature

What I basically try to do is understand human nature, how the mind works, what makes us tick.  What are the patterns of thought, and emotion and motivation that characterize our species?  I focus on language partly because you can’t make a living out of studying human nature. 

One Comment

  1. DanaDKirkham June 15, 2016 at 4:28 pm - Reply

    You really ensure it is seem quite simple with your presentation however I find this matter
    to be really something that I feel I would personally
    in no way understand. It seems too complex and very broad in my opinion. I am possessing a look forward
    in your next set up, I’ll try to obtain the dangle from it!

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