Selection from Steven Pinker’s writings on language.
Language is so tightly woven into human experience that it is scarcely possible to imagine life without it. Chances are that if you find two or more people together anywhere on earth they will soon be exchanging words. When there is no one to talk with, people talk to themselves, to their dogs, even to their plants. In our social relations, the race is not to the swift but to the verbal — the spellbinding orator, the silver-tongued seducer, the persuasive child who wins the battle of wills against a brawnier parent.
“The Language Instinct,” 1994
Language is not just a window into human nature but a fistula: an open wound through which our innards are exposed to an infectious world. It’s not surprising that we expect people to sheathe their words in politeness and innuendo and other forms of doublespeak.
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