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2018Mini-lecture专业八级真题听力原文

Language and Humanity

Good morning, everyone.

In today's lecture, we're going to discuss the relationship between language and humanity. As we all know, language is very powerful.

It allows you to put a thought from your mind directly in someone else's mind. Languages are like genes talking, getting things they want.

And you just imagine the sense of wonder in a baby when it first discovers that, merely by uttering a sound, it can get objects to move across a room as if by magic, and maybe even into its mouth.

Now we need to explain how and why this remarkable trait, you know, human's ability to do things with language, has evolved, and why did this trait evolve only in our species?

In order to get an answer to the question, we have to go to tool use in the chimpanzees.

Chimpanzees can use tools, and we take that phenomenon as a sign of their intelligence.

But if they really were intelligent, why would they crack open nuts with a rock?

Why wouldn't they just go to a shop and buy a bag of nuts that somebody else had already cracked open for them?

Why not? I mean, that's what we do.

The reason the chimpanzees don't do that is that they lack what psychologists and anthropologists call social learning.

That is, they seem to lack the ability to learn from others by copying or imitating or simply watching.

As a result, they can't improve on others' ideas, learn from others' mistakes, or even benefit from others' wisdom.

And so they just do the same thing over and over and over again.

In fact, we could go away for a million years and come back and these chimpanzees would be doing the same thing with the same rocks to crack open the nuts.

Okay, so what this tells us is that, contrary to the old saying, "monkey see, monkey do," the surprise really is that all of the other animals really cannot do that -- at least not very much.

But by comparison, we humans can learn.

We can learn by watching other people and copying or imitating what they can do.

We can then choose, from among a range of options available, the best one.

We can benefit from others' ideas. We can build on their wisdom.

And as a result, our ideas do accumulate, and our technology progresses.

And this cumulative cultural adaptation, as anthropologists call this accumulation of ideas, is responsible for everything around you in your bustling and teeming everyday life.

I mean the world has changed out of all proportion to what we would recognize even 1,000 or 2,000 years ago.

And all of this is because of cumulative cultural adaptation.

For instance, the chairs you're sitting in today, the lights in this lecture hall, my microphone, the iPads and the smart phones that you carry around with you -- all are a result of cumulative cultural adaptation.

But, our acquisition of social learning would create an evolutionary dilemma, and the solution to the dilemma, it's fair to say, would determine not only the future course of our psychology, but the future course of the entire world.

And most importantly for this, it'll tell us why we have language.

And the reason that dilemma arose is, it turns out, that social learning is visual theft.

What I mean is, if I can learn by watching you, I can steal your best ideas, and I can benefit from your efforts, without having to put in the same time and energy that you did into developing them.

Social learning really is visual theft.

And in any species that acquired it, it would encourage you to hide your best ideas, lest somebody steal them from you.

And so some time around 200,000 years ago, our species confronted this crisis.

And we chose to develop the systems of communication that would allow us to share ideas and to cooperate amongst others.

Choosing this option would mean that a vastly greater fund of knowledge and wisdom would become available to any one individual than would ever arise from within an individual family or an individual person on their own.

Well, language is the result.

Language evolved to solve the crisis of visual theft.

Language is a piece of social technology for enhancing the benefits of cooperation -- for reaching agreements, for striking deals and for coordinating our activities.

And you can see that, in a developing society that was beginning to acquire language, not having language would be like a bird without wings.

As I said at the beginning, language really is the voice of our genes.

But, as we spread out around the world, we developed thousands of different languages.

Currently, there are about seven or eight thousand different languages spoken on Earth. And then another problem occurred.

It seems that we use our language, not just to cooperate, but to draw rings around our cooperative groups and to establish identities, and perhaps to protect our knowledge and wisdom and skills from being stolen from outside.

And we know this because when we study different language groups and associate them with their cultures, we see that different languages slow the flow of ideas between groups.

Okay, this tendency we have, this seemingly natural tendency we have, goes towards isolation, towards keeping everything to ourselves, whereas our modern world is communicating with itself and with each other more than it has at any time in its past. And that communication, that connectivity around the world, that globalization now raises a burden.

Because these different languages impose a barrier, as we've just seen, to the transfer of goods and ideas and technologies and wisdom.

And they impose a barrier to cooperation. What will be the solution?

In a world in which we want to promote cooperation and exchange, and in a world that might be dependent more than ever before on cooperation to maintain and enhance our levels of prosperity,

I think it might be inevitable that we have to confront the idea that our destiny is to be one world with one language.

What do you think of the solution? Okay.

In today's lecture, I have presented to you how language shapes our humanity, what kind of dilemma social learning has created, and the possible solutions to the dilemma.

In our next lecture, I am going to talk about lingua franca and its functions.