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Babel (1/5)

This is also part of this series: Fry's Planet Word (5)

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Grade Level: SrH-Adult
Producer: BBC
Closed Captioned: No
Running Time: 50 mins
Country of Origin: Great Britain
Study Guide: No

Copyright Date: 2011
Available in French: No

In this first episode Stephen seeks to uncover the origins of human language and how and why we are the only species on the planet to have this gift.

From attempts to teach chimps to speak to the so called singing mice who have been given the human ‘language gene’, FOXP2, Stephen uncovers to what extent our brain is uniquely hard wired for language. Watching how a child acquires language Stephen hears from psycholinguist Steven Pinker how grammar is an innate quality yet still has to be nurtured.

Case studies of feral children, like Victor of Aveyron, illustrate how difficult it is to be certain which is more important whilst at The National Theatre of the Deaf in Connecticut he learns why sign language is a true language.

Taking part in a Klingon version of Hamlet prompts Stephen to ask the question why we have created the 6000 plus languages which exist on the planet and with philologist Wolfgang Klein he understands Grimms Law which shows how over 2000 Indo European languages have all come from one source.

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