By Steven Pinker
The author believes that language is a human instinct, wired into our brains by evolution.
Fluent grammatical language can in fact appear in many kinds of people with severe intellectual impairments, like schizophrenics, Alzheimer’s patients, some autistic children, and some aphasics. For example, if you ask a normal child to name some animals, and you will get a standard inventory of pet store : dog, cat, horse, cow and pig. But if you ask a Williams syndrome child, you will get a more interesting menagerie : unicorn, sea lion, yak, pteranodon, koala, dragon, saber-tooth tiger etc. A person can have all the environmental advantages such as parents who will bathe you in language, but still not be a competent language user if you lack the right genes or just the right bits of brain.
One of his theory is on language of thought called metalese. He ask himself 2 questions :
- Is thought dependent on words?
- Or is our thought couched in some silent medium of the brain (language of thought called metalese) and thus merely clothed in words whenever we need to communicate them to a listener?
He believes that knowing a language is knowing how to translate mentalese into a string of words and vice versa. People without a language would still have mentalese. According to Pinker, mentalese exist in all species. and he argues that mentalese is simpler than language as it does not deal with Grammar or pronunciation.