The capacity for language is distinctly human. It allows us to communicate, learn things, create culture, and think better. Because of its complexity, scientists have long struggled to understand the neurobiology of language.
In the classical view, there are two major language areas in the left half of our brain. Broca’s area (in the frontal lobe) is responsible for the production of language (speaking and writing), while Wernicke’s area (in the temporal lobe) supports the comprehension of language (listening and reading). A large fibre tract (the arcuate fasciculus) connects these two ‘perisylvian’ areas (around the Sylvian fissure, the split which divides the two lobes).
“The classical view is largely wrong,” says Hagoort. Language is infinitely more complex than speaking or understanding single words, which is what the classical model was based on. While words are among the elementary ‘building blocks’ of language, we also need ‘operations’ to combine words into structured sentences, such as ‘the editor of the newspaper loved the article’. To understand and interpret such an utterance, knowing the speech sounds (or letters) and meaning of the individual words is not enough. For instance, we also need information about the context (who is the speaker?), the intonation (is the tone cynical?), and knowledge of the world (what does an editor do?). (1)
We believe thinking is complex.
And even when it is not, we make it be so.
The meaning of words depends on their context.
But going backwards, what was the first context of them all?
Go back and see within the darkness.
And you will see one word.
Uttered within perfect silence.
This is the substrate of it all.
Are you brave enough to listen to yourself?