Language as a Window into Human Nature

I have watched this brilliant video umpteen times and still can’t get enough of it! Steven Pinker highlights the beauty of innuendos, explains why we use indirect speech and explores the concept of “common knowledge“. In general, he proposes that language — like biology, psychology and anthropology — can be used to understand human nature. Pinker’s felicitous and delightful talk (which includes references to Fargo, When Harry Met Sally, and a New Yorker cartoon from the 1930’s) is transformed into a galvanizing visual experience by superb animation; multiple viewing is recommended to fully appreciate the beauty of the animations and the profound insights from Pinker’s lecture. Here’s the video:

The entire lecture is one hour long, but I found it worth every second of my time! [Warning: The video contains very strong language.]

P. S. The paradox of common knowledge was explored earlier on my blog in the form of a logic puzzle (one of my most favorite ones!): The Blue-eyed Islanders.

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