Professor Iris Berent Deliv­eres the 52nd Annual Robert D. Klein Lec­ture

North­eastern Uni­ver­sity psy­chology pro­fessor Iris Berent deliv­ered the 52nd annual Robert D. Klein Lec­ture on Tuesday after­noon in the Raytheon Amphithe­ater. In her talk—titled “How do human brains give rise to language?”—Berent argued that human lan­guage is a product of a spe­cial­ized bio­log­ical system, that we are innately equipped with a lan­guage instinct.

People know how to talk in more or less the sense that spi­ders know how to spin webs,” she explained, quoting the cog­ni­tive sci­en­tist Steven Pinker. “Spi­ders spin webs because they have spider brains, which give them the urge to spin and the com­pe­tence to succeed.”

Here are five take­aways from the lec­ture, which was estab­lished in 1964 and renamed in 1979 in tribute to the late Robert D. Klein, pro­fessor of math­e­matics and vice chairman of the Faculty Senate.