Understanding Language

A fascinating talk on Language by Jeff Elman, professor of cognitive science and co-director of the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind. He discusses some of the research that helps us understand what it is about human language that is so different from other animals’ communication systems, and what about our biology might make language possible. Series: “Grey Matters”, 2006.

I’d recommend you watch as much as you can although it gets a little too scientific towards the end… Few parts to point out:

☛ at 10mins he explains the difference of white spaces between words when written and silence between words when speaking – it’s not as straight forward as you might think.

☛ at 20mins in he shows us a sentence:

‘The Voringian Binx glorphed the Knappaboor’

Is it English? Looks like it is even though it’s not and it looks like a good candidate for a sentence, but what does it mean? Anything? Does it make sense? You can still understand the overall structure and that generally you’d prefer to be the Binx rather than the Knappaboor, right?!

☛ at 34mins we’re shown a very powerful demonstration – a video of someone saying some sounds, ‘ba’, ‘fa’, ‘pa’… they all sound different, but when you listen to it again with your eyes closed they actually all sound the same but they only seemed different before because of the way they were said, how the person speaking was moving their lip. Visual & hearing are more combined than we think…

Understanding Language

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