A note from the producer:
By "language" we don't mean learning French or
Japanese, but the extraordinary ability humans have to
talk to one another.
The Human Language seeks to explain language by
observing how people speak and listen. In three 55-minute
films we see and hear the enormous complexity of language
which, however, children seem to have no difficulty learning.
Nobody lectures us, but the nature of language itself is
revealed by over 50 linguists (including Noam Chomsky),
philosophers, Papua New Guinea head hunters, archeologists,
writers, publishers, Eskimos, baseball players (including Hank
Aaron), actors, comedians (including Sid Caesar and George
Carlin), and hosts of "real people," including a great many
By good fortune, that made these films possible, it turns out
that both the National Endowment for the Humanities and the
National Science Foundation have "linguistics" in their lists
of approved subjects. And neither of them had ever funded
anything on the subject before. Both of them gave us generous
grants, which encouraged others to do so. In the end, we were
financed by the NIMH (The National Institutes of Mental Health)
as well as the NEH and the NSF, and by PBS and CPB, three
state humanities councils, and four private foundations including
the Annenberg Foundation.
We were determined to be simple without over simplifying, to
be entertaining on a high level, and never to leave important
things out just because they seemed too difficult.
The series of three films was broadcast on PBS. It won the
Language, Linguistics and the Public Interest Award of the
Linguistic Society of America.
The Human Language fills a gap in television as an
educational medium. Does it have a message?
Yes. That language is the most human thing there is about being human.
If you have questions about how we made the films, just drop me a line at
What more can we say?