In defence of words

William Landell Mills

In The Language Instinct Steven Pinker describes how good hummingbirds are at hovering. Able to hover backwards and upside down, hummingbirds have evolved into astonishing 'hover machines'.

Pinker argues that the equivalent, defining evolutionary achievement for humans is our ability to talk. Think about it. Thoughts are transmuted into tiny muscular movements that push air through our vocal cords, and form our tongues and mouths to create shaped vibrations in that air, which strike the recipient's eardrum, sending electronic signals to their brain, which processes the sound into meaning, thinks of a response and fires back meaning-laden sound vibrations, in an instant – like it is easy. And it is. We have evolved into supremely accomplished 'speech machines'.