|Semester and Year||FA 2012|
|Time||11:00 AM - 1:45 PM|
How did language emerge? Language is arguably the most important of social institutions and yet its origins and what it reveals about human nature have posed a persistent and unresolved riddle to philosophers and evolutionary biologists alike. This course looks at the long history of thought about the origins of language in the Western tradition, from enlightenment thinkers like Rousseau and Diderot through modern linguists like Chomsky and Pinker, as a way to explore how ideas of the human and of society are theorized. As we will see, each theory of language origins invariably involves a theory of human nature, of the relationship between emotions and rationality, and of the individual to society. How do various theories of language presuppose theories of society and human nature? How do thinkers about language origins account for linguistic diversity and what implications does it have for their understandings of human nature and difference? The course will engage with a lineage of texts from philosophy, anthropology, linguistics, and evolutionary biology in order to explore these questions. Texts include Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding ; de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics ; and von Herder, Treatise on the Origin of Language.
Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)