In 1932, the American psychologist Walter Pitkin published the self-help book Life Begins at Forty. Pitkin stated confidently:
Life begins at forty. This is the revolutionary outcome of our New Era. Today it is half a truth. Tomorrow it will be an axiom.
By CHRISTOPHER SOLOMON
The valley is home to something else that makes it particularly welcoming to Olympic athletes: a global citizenry, ranging from old-school hippies to French-babbling Québécois.
Iran muzzles press as post-election demonstrations continue
While opposition supporters protest the election results that put President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad back in office, international news organizations say they are being prevented from reporting on the escalating events.[more]
Look Who’s Talking
Academia, unlike every other sector of our culture, has apparently been considered too dull and esoteric to merit a reality show, but now there’s a natural vehicle: evolutionary linguistics, an emerging field awash in colorful personalities, wacky experiments and enough conflict to carry several seasons. Don’t let the name throw you; the scientists who study the origins of language are a passionate, fractious bunch, and you don’t have to be an egghead to be tantalized by the questions that drive their research: how and when did we learn to speak, and to what extent is language a uniquely human attribute? Call the show “American Babble.”
In this field, physical evidence is scarce — language, except in its written form, leaves no trace — and scholarly clout depends on a capacity for ingenious inference and supposition. Christine Kenneally, a linguistics Ph.D. turned journalist, shrewdly begins “The First Word,” her account of this new science, with candid portraits of several of its most influential figures. Appropriately, the first chapter is devoted to Noam Chomsky, whose ideas have dominated linguistics since the late 1950s, and who, as Kenneally reports, has been hailed as a genius on a par with Einstein and disparaged as the leader of a “cult” with “evil side effects.”
According to Chomsky, humans are born with the principles of grammar hard-wired in their brains, enabling them, from an early age and without formal instruction, to construct an infinite variety of sentences from a finite number of words. Moreover, Chomsky has suggested, language is a peculiarly human phenomenon, a trait so remarkable that evolutionary theory is virtually helpless to explain it. “It surely cannot be assumed that every trait is specifically selected,” he wrote in 1988. “In the case of such systems as language ... it is not easy even to imagine a course of selection that might have given rise to them.” Chomsky’s impatience with the question of language’s origins effectively squelched inquiry into the subject for decades. (In a sense, Kenneally notes, such considerations had been taboo for much longer: although Darwin noted similarities between human speech and sounds made by monkeys and birds, and speculated that language “has been slowly and unconsciously developed by many steps,” by the mid-1870s the linguistic societies of Paris and London had formally banned all discussion of evolution.)
Lately, however, Chomsky’s grip on the field has loosened, thanks to half a dozen or so determined upstarts, among them his former student Philip Lieberman, who has mined the human brain for evidence that language evolved from organs, like the basal ganglia, that we share with many other species; the primatologist Sue Savage-Rumbaugh, who taught a bonobo named Kanzi the comprehension skills of a toddler; and the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker, an early champion of the notion that Chomskyan theory is compatible with Darwinian axioms.
In 1989, Pinker and a graduate student named Paul Bloom wrote a paper in which they argued that “language is no different from other complex abilities, such as echolocation or stereopsis,” and that “the only way to explain the origin of such abilities is through the theory of natural selection.” Just as the eye — an organ of breathtaking complexity and specialization — evolved incrementally through the combined effects of random mutations and natural selection over millions of years, so, too, Pinker and Bloom insisted, did language. The authors were invited to present their paper at M.I.T., where Pinker was then a professor, and they learned that Chomsky had agreed to serve as a commentator. Kenneally quotes Bloom on his reaction to this news: “I was absolutely terrified. ... Chomsky is utterly merciless in debate.”
In the end, Chomsky failed to show (apparently he had back trouble), and Pinker and Bloom went on to publish their paper in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, a leading scientific journal, where it appeared along with comments from 31 scientists, including one who titled his endorsement “Liberation!” “From that point on,” Kenneally writes, “more and more researchers felt that studying the origin and evolution of language was a legitimate academic inquiry.”
Liberation has frequently taken a creative form. Lieberman compared the language and motor skills of Parkinson’s patients with those of climbers on Mount Everest. Both groups suffered damage to their basal ganglia: in the first case because of disease, in the second because of oxygen deprivation. Lieberman discovered that the higher the climbers went, the more difficulty they had forming speech — a complicated motor skill — and understanding sentences.One climber displayed such alarming deficits that Lieberman’s research team, which was monitoring the man by radio link, urged him to descend. He refused and several days later fell to his death. It turned out that the man had failed to properly attach his safety harness. The conclusion Lieberman drew from his study — that the basal ganglia, which in animals regulate motor skills, are also crucial for controlling human speech and thought — suggests how such an accident might have occurred. As Kenneally puts it: “It appears that the lack of oxygen supply to the basal ganglia affected the climber’s ability to follow the basic sequence of clipping and unclipping.”
Alas, just as the science gets interesting, Kenneally inexplicably loses her way. She notes that more than a thousand studies on language evolution have been published since 1990, and she seems determined to cite as many as possible. Much of what she describes is fascinating: “gesture researchers” who train hidden cameras on apes in order to capture their repertoires of “muzzle wipes” and hand signals; neuroscientists who recently isolated the first gene known to play a role in communication; and a British linguist who studies the evolution of language by creating computer models in which a population of virtual humans must learn to communicate. But as a whole her book feels disjointed and repetitious, weighed down by superfluous details and lacking a narrative line that could braid the various strands together.
Paradoxically, as Kenneally points out, much of the research suggests that both Chomsky and his adversaries have it at least partially right: on the one hand, humans are uniquely gifted at language; on the other, many species display behaviors and abilities that are necessary for language, and share, to an extent previously thought impossible, our neuroanatomy. No one knows precisely when or why we began to speak, but it seems clear that we developed the capacity in piecemeal fashion rather than in a single, momentous leap.
Kenneally cites the work of Tecumseh Fitch, an evolutionary biologist who discovered that the human larynx, which lies low in the throat, allowing us to make a range of vowel and consonant sounds, is not the unique organ many researchers had assumed. Fitch found that animals like lions and koalas also have a descended larynx, and, equally important, he showed that bigger animals have deeper voices. The reason we evolved a descended larynx, he argues, has less to do with language than with the advantages that come with size. As Kenneally puts it, “If you hear a competitor wooing the female you are interested in, and you can tell from his voice alone that he is much bigger than you, slinking away without direct confrontation makes the most evolutionary sense.”
In 2002, Fitch and Marc Hauser, another prominent evolutionary biologist, wrote a landmark paper with Chomsky, in which they acknowledged some of the recent work on the origins of language and defined the uniquely human aspect of language quite narrowly, as recursion (the capacity to embed phrases inside one another, as in “the woman reading the book about the ape who threw the carrot that the trainer had washed in the morning before arriving at the lab to...”). Three years later, when, at a symposium on the evolution of language, Chomsky was asked what he thought about the field, he remarked, “I wouldn’t have guessed it could go so far.”
New Delhi's decision to 'muzzle' the net creates protest
The doctor says: Patients and their illnesses are mostly continuous, unlike the disjointed care system that tries to treat them as a series of itemised episodes. The more we move towards free flow of patients and information across interfaces of care the better the NHS will work for patients.
- Separated at the joints.
- Out of joint; dislocated.
- Lacking order or coherence: disjointed sentences.
disjointedness dis·joint'ed·ness n.
Russian roulette (Russian: Русская рулетка, Russkaya ruletka) is a potentially lethal game of chance in which participants place a single round in a revolver, spin the cylinder, place the muzzle against their head and pull the trigger. "Russian" refers to the supposed country of origin of the game and roulette to the element of risk-taking and the spinning of the revolver's cylinder being reminiscent of spinning a roulette wheel.
- A stunt in which one spins the cylinder of a revolver loaded with only one bullet, aims the muzzle at one's head, and pulls the trigger.
- An act of reckless bravado.
A revolver, as used in
Muzzle - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
A muzzle may be: the snout of an animal; Muzzle (device), a device that covers an animal's snout; Muzzle (firearms), the mouth of a firearm; Muzzle (song), ...
Search for, seek to discover, as in He was trying to root out the reason for her long absence. This idiom alludes to the way hogs dig by using their snouts. [Mid-1800s]
root sth/sb out (GET RID OF) phrasal verb [M]
to find and remove a person or thing that is causing a problem:
Ms Campbell has been appointed to root out inefficiency in this company.
the mouth and nose of an animal, especially a dog, or a covering put over this in order to prevent the animal from biting
1 to put a muzzle on an animal:
Dangerous dogs should be muzzled.
2 to stop a person or organization from expressing independent opinions:
The new Secrecy Act will muzzle the media and the opposition.
v., -bled, -bling, -bles.
- To utter a meaningless confusion of words or sounds: Babies babble before they can talk.
- To talk foolishly or idly; chatter: "In 1977 [he] was thought of as crazy because he was babbling about supply side" (Newt Gingrich).
- To make a continuous low, murmuring sound, as flowing water.
- To utter rapidly and indistinctly.
- To blurt out impulsively; disclose without careful consideration.
- Inarticulate or meaningless talk or sounds.
- Idle or foolish talk; chatter.
- A continuous low, murmuring sound, as of flowing water.
[Middle English babelen.]
- A self-evident or universally recognized truth; a maxim: "It is an economic axiom as old as the hills that goods and services can be paid for only with goods and services" (Albert Jay Nock).
- An established rule, principle, or law.
- A self-evident principle or one that is accepted as true without proof as the basis for argument; a postulate.
[Middle English, from Old French axiome, from Latin axiōma, axiōmat-, from Greek, from axios, worthy.]
A statement, especially one intended to deceive, that omits some of the facts necessary for a full description or account.