Segments in this Video

Language Peculiarities (04:43)


A stroke renders a young man unable to express his thoughts in language. A man whose larynx was removed makes himself understood by swallowing air and then ejecting it. A deaf woman uses her hands and facial gestures to communicate.

Unconscious Speech Mechanisms (05:06)

There is unconscious machinery involved in an otherwise conscious process. For example, though the stoke victim is intelligent and has a voice mechanism, he lacks the mechanism to express his presumably organized thoughts, and he cannot turn sense into sound.

Theory of Phrenology (03:59)

During the Age of Enlightenment, philosophers and scientists were preoccupied with the material basis of human nature. One such example was the theory of phrenology—which, of course, had no scientific basis.

Broca's Brain (02:54)

Neurologist Paul Broca (1824–1880) discovered a cyst in a patient's brain—a patient who had been unable to articulate speech. This led to the theory of localized brain function in language production. Broca's Area was regarded as the "executive high command of articulate speech."

Revision of Broca's Theory (03:23)

In 1981, a young deaf woman suffered a stroke, rendering her right arm useless. She knew how to sign, but was unable to use her left arm in signing even though she used that arm for other purposes.

Chomskyan Revolution (03:43)

Noam Chomsky drew a distinction between competence and performance; the former is infinite while the latter is finite.

Wernicke's Theory (05:03)

In 1874, Wernicke observed the mirror image of symptoms described by Broca. His patients could neither understand nor repeat what was said to them. His subsequent theoretical schemas were the predecessors to information flow diagrams. In this segment a man demonstrates conduction aphasia.

Importance of Word Order (05:39)

John Hughlings Jackson (1835-1911) approached aphasia with a much less anatomical view of the matter. He asserted that neurological illness was simply evolution played in reverse order. Jackson insisted that thought was cast in the form of sentences, i.e., word order matters.

Lewis Carroll’s "Jabberwocky" and Neurolinguistics (02:13)

Lewis Carroll’s poem "Jabberwocky" demonstrates that a combination of words can sound as if they may mean something, yet something else about it makes it impossible to say what the poem is about.

Machinery of Language (03:09)

Linguists design linguistic probes to uncover the deep structure of language. Such probes include carefully calculated anomalies that linguists observe in sessions with aphasiacs. In so doing, they begin to see the machinery of language at work.

Advanced Linguistic Technology (05:17)

Today, linguists use brain lesions to understand how language works by probing the lesion during a wide range of linguistic tasks. The brain can be visualized in the act of processing language in advanced physical technology—yet this does not provide an explanation for the mechanisms of language.

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Broken English: The Effects of Brain Damage on Language

Part of the Series : Born Talking: A Personal Inquiry into Language
DVD Price: $99.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $149.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $99.95



In this program, Dr. Jonathan Miller investigates both the predictable and the unexpected effects of damage to Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas on patients’ abilities to communicate verbally and through sign language. In his efforts to expose the physiological roots of language expression, Dr. Miller traces the evolution of brain research, from the scientific blind alley of phrenology to the promising field of neurolinguistics. The essentially arbitrary yet formalized nature of words, the Chomskyan distinction between competence and performance, and John Hughlings Jackson’s novel theory on aphasia are also considered. (47 minutes)

Length: 48 minutes

Item#: BVL11355

ISBN: 978-1-4213-9344-5

Copyright date: ©1990

Closed Captioned

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Only available in USA and Canada.