Stephen Fry on Language
I have here another podcast recommendation. This podcast is Stephen Fry’s, which, if you don’t know it already, I recommend introducing yourself to via the excellent episode titled “Language” (Series 2, Episode 3). In 33 minutes he touches on so many topics (from structuralism to epistemology to a rant against linguistic pedantry and on and on…) that I can only summarize it by saying that it’s about language and is simultaneously entertaining and thought-provoking. Listen to it here, or, if you prefer, go here for the blog essay version (“blessays,” he calls them… I imagine the pun on the French word for “wounded” was an accident, but one that Fry was aware of). I recommend the audio version so you can hear the relish with which he delivers language, which is especially appropriate in an essay about language.
I first learned of Fry about seven or so years ago one summer when I bought his novel The Liar on a whim. I loved it, so I bought his other books as well, including his recent The Ode Less Travelled, a fun, very well put together text in which Fry teaches us the ins and outs of poetry. I eventually discovered that he was also an actor, performing in Blackadder, Wilde (in which he plays Oscar Wilde), Jeeves and Wooster, A Bit of Fry and Laurie, and, more recently, Kingdom (a TV show in which he stars, and the first season of which is available for free and legal streaming at Hulu.com).
So, as you can see, I am a fan of Fry, and would recommend the abovementioned podcast as a great introduction to his output. Here again is the link: Stephen Fry discusses his language.
On a related note, Fry mentions in this podcast/blessay Noam Chomsky’s idea of innate linguistic faculty. I’m currently reading the fascinating book The Chomsky-Foucault Debate on Human Nature, which touches on this and other ideas related to the question: Is there such a thing as “innate” human nature independent of our experiences and external influences? The book also includes various individual discussions with Chomsky and Foucault that happened outside of the debate. Highly recommended!