Re: Human language (long)

John A. Halloran (
19 Jan 1997 15:01:01 -0700

In article <> (MSCob) writes:

>Actually, I have read almost all of Pinker's very long and dense book.
>Nowhere in it did I find anything but evidence for how the brain/mind
>and uses logic (aka syntax). In fact, I found the reference to the young
>child who, missing his left hemisphere, had his right hemisphere acquire
>language in an only slightly degraded fashion in Pinker's book. I don't
>all his vast material is fully integrated in his own mind.

> I don't believe that thinking and logic are the same thing at all as
>language. Language can convey thoughts and reasoning, and also can convey
>emotions. People can think and also feel quite efficiently without
>language. (But it's hard to convey a lot of thoughts without language.)
>A study years ago (40s?) by a woman psychologist whose name I have
>forgotten, married to some famous biologist (does anyone recognize this?)
>found that scientists tend to report they do research thinking visually
>rather than in words, in contrast to psychologists and social scientists,
>who generally report they think in words.


Let me change the subject slightly and ask you as a linguist what you think of
the argument that mechanisms for language must be wired into the brain as a
result of hundreds of thousands of years of evolution because (they say) the
fundamental structure of language is the same in all the world's languages.
I question whether those who make this assertion have thought about the
different language viewpoints that accusative languages versus ergative
languages have. And other languages are polysynthetic. What do you think
about their argument?


John Halloran