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Tool making and language

Discussions of language results in controversy that falls broadly into two camps: language is innate or language is cultural and interactive in formation. Chomsky, Pinker, and others occupy the innate camp and numerous others occupy a camp that can be described as social-interactionist, connectionist, and emergent. This debate will not be resolved any time soon. The idea of language adds an interesting perspective on speaking and toolmaking as similar/related activities: “The ingredients of speaking and toolmaking are similar. Both require a brain capable of complex imitation and a community that wants to share information. Toolmaking also requires hands capable of shaping tools, while speech requires a throat capable of vocalization.”
Reading through the article, I was surprised how much the discussion on language shares with general discussions of learning…

One Comment

  1. Ken Allan wrote:

    Kia ora e George

    Thanks for this and thanks for the link to The Idea Of Language. Blair Bolles’ line, “(T)he birth of writing does not reflect an improved brain but a new idea ” is a fulcrum. I’ve always understood that the written word is a metaphor for the spoke word.

    Bolles seems to be saying that the written word is a tool, and I agree with this idea. It explains the many problems we have with teaching and learning today.

    Humans are toolmakers and this skill comes almost naturally to most. What doesn’t come naturally is the know-how to use already invented tools. This has to be learnt from scratch through a contrived process. Not so the skill to use speech.

    Catchya later
    from Middle-earth

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 4:32 am | Permalink