Why do languages Matter?

June 8, 2017

"Language is what makes humans human".

 

That pretty much answers the question. Human life, whether you look at it from an economic, #social, scientific or another angle, is made possible through language.  Roughly said, that’s the core of the eloquent message broadcast by the brilliant cognitive scientist, linguist and Harvard professor of #psychology, Steven Pinker.

 

In a #London Real interview, he was asked perhaps one of the most hated and dreaded questions among linguists and language aficionados: “Why do linguistics matter?” It’s a sensitive topic and one that would push most people into a defensive position (it’s hard to argue sometimes and not be intimidated if your conversational partners are very pragmatic and tech-focused).  Maybe the biggest reason for this is that people involved with languages sometimes have trouble answering that question themselves.  I for one sure found it difficult. While I never had any doubt about how much I loved #languages as a language grad, I did sometimes worry about the #economic significance of it. “What am I going to do with this? How is this useful? Who is going to hire me?”

 

But then there are people like Mr Pinker, who, in a seemingly effortless way, wipe out any doubt and remind us of just how crucial languages are to everything in this world. Without language, there would be no exchange. At least not on as complicated a level as we are used to.  As he phrased it, “language allows us to convey an unlimited number of ideas”, which sparks fascinating questions about all sorts of intellectual, scientific and practical challenges.  And if you’re still not convinced, how about this one: “If you’re curious about human beings, you’ve got to be curious about language”.  And aren’t we all?

 

Thank you Mr. Pinker

 

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