Sunday, August 12, 2007

Language Evolution

The NYT book review has an interesting review about a very interesting subject - the origin and evolution of human language. An increasing number of scientists now believe that language may not be something that is unique to human beings. Even more interesting (and more controversial) are the claims that syntax ("generative grammar") may not be essential for thought. This goes counter to the standard orthodox Chomskyan model of linguistics. The book looks interesting since it claims to be an introduction to this very intriguing and controversial subject. Another review here.

Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct is a classic work on the subject, as perfect an introduction as can be for laymen and beginners. It is one of my favourite popular science books. He makes the same claims for evolutionary origin of language too while still being deferential to Chomsky all the time. (The best part of the book is his absolutely hilarious put-downss of self-proclaimed language-pundits and "grammar mavens" like William Safire)

Also interesting the wikipedia entry for "colourless green ideas sleep furiously". Apparently there was some poetry contest held to challenge Chomsky's claim. Very interesting, even if it is all very confusing too.

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