Green Ideas Speak Furiously

January 27, 2007

Green Fury

Linguist Noam Chomsky is known for his phrase:

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

Language provides a portal to the inner workings of the mind. No one speaks more lucidly about language and the mind than fellow linguist Steven Pinker. The Toronto Star has an article named Of thought and metaphor that discusses Pinker’s upcoming book:

The 52-year-old cognitive scientist, born and raised in Montreal, is again challenging conventional wisdom with The Stuff of Thought, a book about language due out in September.

I can’t wait to read it :-)

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The video “In My Language” is a fascinating window into the world of a woman with autism. The first three minutes show her interacting with her environment, humming, tapping, touching, in what she later describes as her language. In the final five minutes she appeals to us “typicals” to ummmmmmm….. smarten up I guess.

The more I learn about autism the more confused I get. After reading the book Mindblindness and related theories about the role of mirror neurons, I thought that social cognitive abilities, like group identity, should be underdeveloped in autistics. An autistic painter would not identify with other painters and she certainly would not care what other people thought of her paintings.

That would have been my conclusion if I observed or attempted to interact with the woman in the video. Give her a keyboard, however, and she writes an “autie” manifesto deriding the closed mindedness of the “typicals”. Sheesh, no problem with group identity there.