Steven Pinker on language

We first met Steven Pinker, a linguist at MIT, in a video we watched in class called “The Mind’s Big Bang” where he expounds on the many evolutionary benefits language must have conveyed upon our ancestors – in particular he emphasized the use of language to convey material information in contrast to the social maneuvering allowed by gossip.

Here’s a clever but of animation that rounds out Pinker’s ideas. This video focuses exclusively on what language use can tell us about complex social relationships. Here you can grasp the outlines of Pinker’s larger project, using linguistics to develop a theory of mind. That is, what can language tell us about the way that people think?

You can watch more RSA Animate features here. I’ve seen them all but the one’s by David Harvey and Barbara Ehrenreich are especially good.

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About Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is a project cataloger at The Mariners' Museum library. He has a Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill and was formerly a professor at ODU. You can find him on Twitter @m4ttTh0mps0n.
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One Response to Steven Pinker on language

  1. Russ Stark says:

    Russ Stark:
    It seems that in order to maintain the several types of relationships that we keep with each person that we know, we have several rules that we must abide by so that there is no relationship intrusion. The study in the video provided a humerous insight into the rules of these relationships, and made me realize their existance and that I never knew they were there.

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