Aug 19, 2010

Words that Change the World

Susan Schaller believes that the best idea she ever had in her life had to do with an isolated young man she met one day at a community college. He was 27 years old at the time, and though he had been born deaf, no one had ever taught him to sign. He had lived his entire life without language—until Susan found a way to reach out to him.

Charles Fernyhough doesn't think that very young children think—at least not in a way he'd recognize as thinking. Charles explains what he means by walking us through an experiment in a white room. And Elizabeth Spelke weighs in with research from her baby lab, which suggests a child's brain begins as a series of islands, until it can find the right words and phrases to bridge the gaps.

James Shapiro, a Shakespeare scholar at Columbia, argues that Shakespeare behaved more like a chemist than a writer: by smashing words together—words like eye and ball—he created new words, and new ways of seeing the world.

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