While this book will be of interest to the specialist, it is intended for a general audience. The title, The Science of Language, might appear daunting, but Professor Chomsky's contributions to the interview can be understood by all and – where readers might want some additional information or aid in understanding why Chomsky adopts the unusual views that he does – I provide ample explanations. However, some might still ask why they should be interested in the science of language at all, and in Chomsky's views of it in particular.
A recent (January 2010) PBS series called The Human Spark starring Alan Alda explored the question of what makes modern humans distinctive. After all, there have been humanoid creatures around for hundreds of thousands of years, but it was only relatively recently in evolutionary time – on a reasonable guess, somewhere between fifty thousand and a hundred thousand years ago – that humans began to display the remarkable cognitive powers that so clearly distinguish us from chimps and other ‘higher’ apes. We form non-kin communities that do not involve direct contact or acquaintance with others; we have science and mathematics and seek ultimate explanations, sometimes in the form of religions; we think about things both temporally and spatially distant, and produce and enjoy fiction and fantasy; we organize and plan for the future in ways that go beyond anything other creatures can manage; we speculate; we draw and employ other forms of artistic media; we produce and enjoy music; we see connections between distant events and seek explanations that will prove reliable and yield good policies; and so on. The conclusion the PBS series reached was that the introduction of language must surely be among the most important factors explaining how these remarkable capacities came to us.