Great Golden Girls Language Moment

Blanche and Rose are overseeing try-outs for a talent show. Blanche, naturally, is favoring all the men. The director says to Rose, "You might tell your friend not to be so capricious in her

Rose replies:
"Ah, yes, indeed. For as we all know, it is the capricious person whose capriciosity is never truly caprified."
It's a great quote because it illustrates a point that Stephen Pinker makes as well as Charlie in Numb3rs. The human brain is wired to not only learn language but to develop and play with it. Children, for example, start with imitation. They then go through a period of time where they experiment with the rules.

So a child will start by saying, "I swam yesterday." THEN, as the child ages, the sentence becomes "I swimmed yesterday" before the child learns (as opposed to imitates) to use "I swam."

The capacity to play with the words is already there. As Charlie points out, humans can suss out (guess or intuit) what follows from half-information. Only so many letters can follow "thr"--basically the next letter has to be a vowel.

So when Rose develops or experiments with "capricious" (in large part because she doesn't know what the word means) she is doing something that the human brain does almost effortlessly. Sure, computers can be programmed to do the same thing. But the human brain is already wired to figure out different forms of a word--from adjective to noun to verb--which is as astonishing as Stephen Pinker claims!

No comments: