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Mind Your Language: Metaphor, Thought and Imagination

Date to be Announced

The use of language is extraordinarily commonplace, but its origins remain a mystery and have been the subject of heated debate among linguists for the better part of a century. Is the ability to understand and use language genetically encoded in humans—the result of an accident that took place relatively recently in evolutionary terms? Is it a tool of thought, for which the ability to communicate with others is a felicitous by-product? Or is it a human invention—such as the internet, or the telephone—developed by our ancestors as they realized that there were benefits to cooperating with one another? In this program, four outstanding scientists grapple with those questions from four entirely different perspectives.

The Big Ideas Series is supported by the John Templeton Foundation.


Brian GreenePhysicist, Author

Brian Greene is a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, and is recognized for a number of groundbreaking discoveries in his field of superstring theory. His books, The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos, and The Hidden Reality, have collectively spent 65 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.

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Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is a seminal figure in the field of linguistics, and ranks among the most cited widely scholars in modern history. In 1959, he revolutionized the study of modern …

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Daniel Dor

Daniel Dor, a linguist, media researcher and political activist, received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from Stanford University (1996). He teaches at the Dan Department of Communication, Tel Aviv University. Dor …

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Evelina Fedorenko

Dr. Fedorenko is a cognitive neuroscientist who studies the human language system. She received her bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 2002, and her Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of …

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Steven PinkerExperimental Psychologist, Psycholinguist, Author

Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist who conducts research in visual cognition, psycholinguistics, and social relations. Currently Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard, he has won numerous prizes for his research, teaching, and books.

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