Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Laguage as a window to the mind

Remember the notes I keep to remind me of various blogging material? While writing my previous post, I noticed that I had noted page no. 29 of The Language Instinct and I wondered what it was. It was a passage where Steven Pinker shows that even so-called unsophisticated languages follow sophisticated rules.
Here is an example, from an interview conducted by the linguist William Labov on a stoop in Harelm.  The interviewee is Larry, the roughest member of a teenage gang called the Jets. (Labov observes in his scholarly article that "for most readers of this paper, first contact with Larry would produce some fairly negative reactions on both sides.")
You know, like some people say if you're good an' shit, your spirit goin't heaven...'n' if you bad, your spirit goin' to hell. Well, bullishit! Your spirit goin' to hell anyway, good or bad. 
Why? I'll tell you why, 'Cause, you see, doesn' nobody really know that it's a God, y'know, 'cause I mean I have seen black gods, white gods, all color gods, and don't nobody know it's really a God. An' when they be sayin' if you good, you goin't' heaven, tha's bullshit, 'cause you ain't goin' to no heaven, 'cause it ain't no heaven for you to go to.
[... jus' suppose that there is a God, would he be white or black?]
He'd be white, man.
Why? I'll tell you why. 'Cause the average whitey out here got everything, you dig? And the nigger ain't got shit,y'know? Y'understand'? So-um-for-in order for that to happen, you know it ain't no black God that's doing' that bullshit.

Pinker then goes on to analyse auxiliaries, non-declarative statements and other grammatical paraphernalia.

In this BBC interview, the presenter says that Pinker and his wife Rebecca Goldstein have been called the brainiest couple in the US. Pinker is an excellent speaker. For eg., see his TED talks.

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