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.
Note – This video contains strong language. Also see animation below.
Wikipedia: Steven Arthur Pinker (born September 18, 1954) is a Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, linguist and popular science author. He is a Harvard College Professor and the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University, and is known for his advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind.
Pinker’s academic specializations are visual cognition and psycholinguistics. His experimental subjects include mental imagery, shape recognition, visual attention, children’s language development, regular and irregular phenomena in language, the neural bases of words and grammar, and the psychology of innuendo and euphemism. He published two technical books which proposed a general theory of language acquisition and applied it to children’s learning of verbs. In his popular books, he has argued that language is an “instinct” or biological adaptation shaped by natural selection. On this point, he opposes Noam Chomsky and others who regard the human capacity for language to be the by-product of other adaptations. He is the author of six books for a general audience: The Language Instinct (1994), How the Mind Works (1997), Words and Rules (2000), The Blank Slate (2002), The Stuff of Thought (2007), and The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011). Read on…
TED Talk – Steven Pinker on language and thought
In an exclusive preview of his book The Stuff of Thought, Steven Pinker looks at language and how it expresses what goes on in our minds — and how the words we choose communicate much more than we realize.
Linguist Steven Pinker questions the very nature of our thoughts — the way we use words, how we learn, and how we relate to others. In his best-selling books, he has brought sophisticated language analysis to bear on topics of wide general interest. Watch it here.
RSA Animate – Language as a Window into Human Nature
In this new RSAnimate Steven Pinker shows us how the mind turns the finite building blocks of language into infinite meanings. Taken from the RSA’s free public events programme http://www.thersa.org/events
– Steven Pinker’s Homepage
Via Beyond Words