I’m reading this because I feel that a better understanding of language will help me connect dots in my research. What exactly? As of yet I do not know.
One insight so far is knowing that language/words and thought/thinking is not the same. The foundational framework of human thought is not rooted in words. Humans have a universal mentalese utilizing representations and symbols – in essence we do not think in English, Chinese, Apache, etc.
This distinction really brings in to focus why the great ancient civilizations put such an emphasis on the universal language of symbolism. Saying that “symbolism is the universal language” is not just some esoteric occult nonsense, this is rooted in a deep transcendent reality modern science is just beginning to understand.
I think it’s fruitful to consider language as an evolutionary adaption, like the eye, it’s major parts designed to carry out important functions. And Chomsky’s arguments about the nature of the language faculty are based on technical analysis of word and sentence structure, often couched in abstruse formalisms. His discussions of flesh and blood speakers are perfunctory and highly idealized. Though I do happen to agree with many of his arguments, I think that a conclusion about the mind is convincing only if many kinds of evidence can converge on it. So the story in this book is highly eclectic, ranging from how DNA builds brains to the pontifications of newspaper language columnists. The best place to begin is to ask why anyone should believe that human language is part of human biology – an instinct – at all.Steven Pinker