Understanding How the Brain Speaks Two Languages

The very fact that something as simple as working with puzzles or having once got a good education can improve brain function does prove that multilingualism is not the only path to staying cognitively healthy in your dotage. And plenty of monolinguals do perfectly well at acquiring empathy and social skills early in life. Still, there are roughly 6,500 spoken languages in the world. There must be a reason our brains come factory-loaded to learn more than just one.

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HOW DOES OUR LANGUAGE SHAPE THE WAY WE THINK?

For a long time, the idea that language might shape thought was considered at best untestable and more often simply wrong. Research in my labs at Stanford University and at MIT has helped reopen this question. We have collected data around the world: from China, Greece, Chile, Indonesia, Russia, and Aboriginal Australia. What we have learned is that people who speak different languages do indeed think differently and that even flukes of grammar can profoundly affect how we see the world. Language is a uniquely human gift, central to our experience of being human. Appreciating its role in constructing our mental lives brings us one step closer to understanding the very nature of humanity.

A Way with Words

A Way with Words is an upbeat and lively hour-long public radio show about language examined through history, culture, and family about slang, grammar, old sayings, word origins, regional dialects, family expressions, and speaking and writing well.

The Biology of the Language Faculty: Its Perfection, Past and Future

Noam Chomsky, around whose work much of the Syntax series revolves, gives listeners a glimpse into the evolution of his own thinking, with an emphasis on areas of linguistics where computational considerations play a major role.

The Comprehension Hypothesis Extended

This presentation briefly reviews some of the evidence for the “comprehension hypothesis,” which states that we acquire language and develop literacy when we understand what we hear and read.