Category Archives: Video

Video: Make sure to tune in!

We’re excited about this new series on Link TV about endangered languages.

Of the 6500 languages spoken in the world today, only half will make it
to the next century,” says poet Bob Holman, one of the founders of the
Endangered Language Alliance and host of a new travel series
spotlighting the cultures of endangered languages, premiering
February 1, 2012, on LINK TV. “While endangered plants and animals
are protected by law, who is looking out for the cultures and ways of
life held in these words? That is the heart and mission of this series.”
Encounter the distinct cultures and peoples of West Africa, Asia and
the Middle East in the three-part documentary On the Road with Bob
Holman and discover ancient languages on the brink of extinction.
Each of the half-hour shows, produced by Rattapallax in association
with Bowery Arts and Science, will air on Link TV, which is available on
local cable channels, DVD, online, and on DirectTV channel 375 and
Dish Network channel 9410.

Travel the road not taken, with Bob Holman, in On the Road with Bob
Holman, beginning February 1, 2012, on LINK TV. More info at

Video: Pinker on Language, Violence and Human Nature

Check out this interview with Steven Pinker in which he discusses human nature and the role of language in shaping it, among other things.  The New York Times interview coincides with the release of his new book, The Better Angels of our Nature.  Here’s a short abstract:

We’ve all had the experience of reading about a bloody war or shocking crime and asking, “What is the world coming to?” But we seldom ask, “How bad was the world in the past?” In this startling new book, the bestselling cognitive scientist Steven Pinker shows that the world of the past was much worse. With the help of more than a hundred graphs and maps, Pinker presents some astonishing numbers. Tribal warfare was nine times as deadly as war and genocide in the 20th century. The murder rate of Medieval Europe was more than thirty times what it is today. Slavery, sadistic punishments, and frivolous executions were unexceptionable features of life for millennia, then suddenly were targeted for abolition. Wars between developed countries have vanished, and even in the developing world, wars kill a fraction of the people they did a few decades ago. Rape, battering, hate crimes, deadly riots, child abuse, cruelty to animals—all substantially down.

How could this have happened, if human nature has not changed? What led people to stop sacrificing children, stabbing each other at the dinner table, or burning cats and disemboweling criminals as forms of popular entertainment? The key to explaining the decline of violence, Pinker argues, is to understand the inner demons that incline us toward violence (such as revenge, sadism, and tribalism) and the better angels that steer us away. Thanks to the spread of government, literacy, trade, and cosmopolitanism, we increasingly control our impulses, empathize with others, bargain rather than plunder, debunk toxic ideologies, and deploy our powers of reason to reduce the temptations of violence.

With the panache and intellectual zeal that have made his earlier books international bestsellers and literary classics, Pinker will force you to rethink your deepest beliefs about progress, modernity, and human nature. This gripping book is sure to be among the most debated of the century so far.

Video: Is vowel harmony innate?

Check out this video highlighting child language acquisition research conducted by Toby Mintz, Associate Professor of Psychology and Linguistics at the USC College of Letters, Arts & Sciences, and USC College undergraduate Ashlee Welday.

Their study investigates how infants are able to identify individual words in their language, as opposed to hearing speech as a continuous string of sound with no internal word boundaries.  The researchers use an artificial language with vowel harmony to discover if infants, even those exposed to a language devoid of vowel harmony as is the case with English, are innately equipped to pick up on vowel harmony as a cue for word boundaries.

They find that infants do use vowel harmony as a cue to help decipher word boundaries, in the way we would predict if babies were innately equipped to perceive vowel harmony.