World without words

The latest edition of RadioLab is a fantastic exploration of how the world might be different if we experienced it without the benefit of words that shape our concepts.

As always, it sounds effortlessly beautiful, and this episode takes a diverse look at the different ways in which we might understand our lives wordlessly.

Essentially, the programme looks at how the lack of language tells us about language itself.

The idea that we can study problems, absences and disorders to get an insight into the normal mind and brain is the core idea in the sciences of cognitive neuropsychology and cognitive neuropsychiatry.

While both powerful scientific approaches, I’ve always been attracted to this way of understanding the mind and brain because it emphasises how everyone, no matter how different, is a window to our common humanity.

This edition of RadioLab captures that idea perfectly:

It’s almost impossible to imagine a world without words. But in this hour of Radiolab, we try to do just that. We speak to a woman who taught a 27-year-old man the first words of his life, and we hear a firsthand account of what it feels like to have the language center of your brain wiped out by a stroke. Plus: a group of children invent an entirely new language in Nicaragua in the 1970s.


Link to ‘Words’ edition of RadioLab.

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