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Language, Culture, and Being Human


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Speaker(s): Professor Daniel Everett
Chair: Dr Olga Sobolev

Recorded on 22 March 2012 in Old Theatre, Old Building.

Over the past fifty years, the most popular theory of language is that it is an outgrowth of an innate biogram, often referred to as Universal Grammar. In this lecture he will explore an alternative perspective, namely, that language is a human invention and cultural artefact, passed down from one generation to another. Its principal task is to solve the communication problem that human sociality, what Aristotle referred to as the "social instinct", imposes upon us.

Daniel Everett has held appointments in anthropology and linguistics at the University of Campinas, the University of Pittsburgh, Manchester University, and Illinois State University. He is currently Dean of Arts and Sciences at Bentley University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He is the author of Don't sleep, there are snakes and Language: the cultural tool, both published by Profile. He has conducted research on many Amazonian languages, but is best known for his research on the Piraha language of Brazil.

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