Lectures on DVD
#1
I recently began watching lectures on DVD. I purchased my first few from The Great Courses. This place seems to always have part of it's inventory on sale. This is good, because they're a little pricey. Here's one I watched.

Story of Human Language
Taught By Professor John McWhorter, Ph.D., Manhattan Institute

Dr.McWhorter has a very relaxed style of presentation that flows smoothly. He is extremely articulate and very easy to follow.

He started by pointing out that etymology is no longer of great interest to linguists, and so his course would not concentrate on this. Unfortunately, he failed to say what the course is about. Instead, he just started talking, which left me wondering how his content fit into the study of Linguistics.

He then explained how languages developed at different times and in different parts of the world, and the level of evidence we have for this kind of research. He focused on Indo-European languages, but also covered other language groups. At first it was fascinating to see how different languages developed according to somewhat predictable patterns, but by lesson 18 I wondered if he was going to cover other areas of linguistics. I began to grow tired of what I saw as just more illustrations for the same dynamic of change. Finally in lesson 34 (of 36) he wrapped up this discussion. And the odd thing was, I felt grateful that he had dragged me along for this ride. Because by the time he got to the end I understood what he was doing. He was covering all these cases, not just to give illustrations, but to expose a broader range of languages and circumstances.

In lesson 35 he covered artificial languages. You've probably heard of Esperanto. But more interesting was a case in Nicaragua where deaf children (who knew no sign language) were brought together in a new school for the deaf, and within a year the children had developed their own complete sign language.

In the last lesson he took one sentence and did a complete etymological analysis of it. He stated it made sense to do this as an extension of earlier lessons.

Bottom line: Despite some annoying traits, I think Dr. McWhorter is an excellent teacher. I think the course was well worth the time I spent watching it. I would buy another course by McWhorter if I was certain it didn't overlap this one. But be advised, he gets into such detail on some things that it becomes nerd level coverage. It's not like watching a Nova or BBC special. It's like taking a college course.

Interesting tidbits: Because of the way language changes, small isolated populations develop the highest levels of grammatical complexity. There are approximately 6000 living languages. Several languages use the same word for blue and green. At least one language divides yellow into two colors.

You can read a description and other people's comments here: http://www.teach12.com/tgc/courses/cours...x?cid=1600
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#2
A few more comments. I've purchased a bunch of these. Two were so tedious I could not finish them. Some were very interesting, but a bit difficult to get through. But they do have a return policy if you don't like what you get.

The prices they charge seem to high to me. But eventually, everything goes on sale. And there are sales all the time.

I just ordered another one called Rome and the Barbarians. The DVD version is normally $374.95, but the sale price is $54.95. You also have the choice to buy an audio version. And transcripts are also available.
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#3
Well, Rome and the Barbarians turned out to be very interesting. I got to learn about different groups of people who interacted with Rome at various times. Also saw how Rome was able to absorb so many other cultures. It made me think that some governments are set up so they work well at first, but over time the repetitive impact of their methods puts so much stress on things it starts to deteriorate. Anyway, I'm glad that Romans took the time to write down accounts of so many neighboring cultures.

Now I'm watching Great Ancient Civilizations of Asia Minor. As you probably know, that's where Turkey is today. It's also where Homer wrote his most famous books, and where ecumenical councils defined Christianity.



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#4
(04-12-2011, 04:19 AM)Andrew Wrote: In lesson 35 he covered artificial languages. You've probably heard of Esperanto. But more interesting was a case in Nicaragua where deaf children (who knew no sign language) were brought together in a new school for the deaf, and within a year the children had developed their own complete sign language.

Yes, I took Esperanto in college actually. I never use it. Fascinating about the children with their own sign language!!!

(04-12-2011, 04:19 AM)Andrew Wrote: Several languages use the same word for blue and green. At least one language divides yellow into two colors.

That is so interesting, because I noticed that my son often mixes up the two colors. Lately he's been getting better, but it used to be a problem.

I had seen adverts for this lecture series in my mail, but figured I'd never have time to listen. I didn't know anyone who had actually invested in them. Well, now I have! Thanks for your reviews, Andrew!


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#5
(06-15-2012, 04:13 PM)Aiona Wrote: I had seen adverts for this lecture series in my mail, but figured I'd never have time to listen. I didn't know anyone who had actually invested in them. Well, now I have!

There are lots of reviews on the site. What I do is read the worst ones first. Although sometimes I agree with the worst reviews, but still liked the lecture. Here are some quick comments from me:

How to Listen to and Understand Great Music: A music course that has much too much talking and too little music. I was unable to finish it, and gave it away.

History of the English Language: this teacher had a very awkward style of presentation, and seemed ill-at-ease with the camera. He also had too many introductory statements, too many summaries, and his organization was not the best. But the topic was so interesting it drew me in. So I enjoyed it, despite the oddities of the teacher.

History of Christian Theology: I have mixed feeling about this course. I was disappointed with Dr. Cary’s habit of repeating himself. He frequently restated the same information, without varying it in a way that added understanding. He made frequent use of parenthetical remarks, which created a halting quality to his delivery. He took wrong turns and had to backtrack more often than most lecturers. I found myself looking up some of the topics on the Internet to gain understanding, and finding articles that were much clearer. But despite this, I found myself drawn into the presentation. Dr. Cary is energetic and engaging. I had very little trouble maintaining my interest to the end. I could not have learned this much simply reading the Internet, because I would not have a professor guiding me in which topics to read. Also, despite the shortcomings, I ended up watching it again.

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#6
Aiona, I remember reading that men in general don't see color as well as women do. Not very surprising though considering decorating and clothing ensembles. Wink
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#7
Andrew, I hope you like the new series. Looks interesting. I seam to be missing some notices for some threads here as I have missed some posts. Anyways. The language series really does sound interesting. Makes sense that the kids would make up their own language. I heard that twins often make up their own word or signs when little too.

You know what i would love to learn more about is feral children. There are so few studies on them. But, I am always profoundly fascinated by them. I think they learned that if we don't learn language by a certain age, we can never learn a complex language. That was shocking to me. But, that might just be a theory since they don't have many case studies. I know some severely neglected children have trouble with learning language but it's hard to tell the cause with that.
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#8
(06-16-2012, 05:35 PM)Bunny Wrote: Makes sense that the kids would make up their own language. I heard that twins often make up their own word or signs when little too.

There was also an instance of children developing a verbal language in Hawaii. It was a case of children of immigrants who all spoke different languages. The language they developed is more sophisticated than a pidgin language. It's a full fledged language. And now Hawaii doesn't know what to do with it. Because it costs money to maintain a language, and now there's an issue of moral obligation to do so.

I have a feeling I'm leaving some things out here (or getting them wrong). So that means I've forgotten enough to watch it again. Smile

Quote:You know what i would love to learn more about is feral children.

He mentioned something in regard to this. In general terms, we have a window to acquire language. It is wide open when we are very young, and then closes as we become adults. So in immigrant families, the children learn quickly and speak without an accent. Adults struggle, and never get rid of their accent.

I don't remember what he said about feral children. But it was either his lecture of some other source where I heard that adults who have not acquired even one language, can never learn. But I assume that having one language allows a tool to learn another.

Also, you mentioned you are missing some notices to threads. Look in your junk folder. Maybe they are going there. Or search to see you overlooked them. If you check this, let me know. But on my end, I've had a couple times I missed notices because they came to my email after I read the forum.
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#9
Yes, the one thing I remember was a theory that if the children were raised without significant human interaction and expose to language by the age of 8, they could never fully learn a language. They still could learn some language but not as much someone who grew up with language. I think there was a boy and a girl in modern times who were raised by dogs in Russia. It was cute because the young woman still prefered the company of dogs to humans even though she was found rather young. But then again, many of us prefer animals to humans and we were raised by humans! hehe!! So interesting. I should look some info up on line.
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#10
Well, I didn't want to mention it because it's pretty depressing. But there were experiments where children were purposely denied language, but did have human contact. And the result was they either could not acquire language, or they were very limited at it. I think this was mentioned in the lecture, but I'd have to watch again to make sure.

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