Pinker is a wonderful writer, and I enjoyed this book almost as much for the writing as the content (which was extremely stimulating). He makes a very convincing case, especially so if you don't know much about linguistics (I didn't). After reading this I went on to read other books on "mentalese" (aka "the language of thought"), and found that Pinker's position is pretty controversial and probably on the decline. I don't know how much of the rest of the book is like this, but it's worth reading, regardless.
About This Item
In The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker, director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at MIT, weaves his vast knowledge of language into a compelling theory: that language is a human instinct, wired into our brains by evolution like web spinning in spiders or sonar in bats.Along the way, The Language Instinct lucidly explains the important issues your students need to know about language: how it works, how it evolved, how children learn it, how the brain computes it, and how it changes. "A brilliant, witty, and altogether satisfying book."--New York Times Book Review • Author: Steven Pinker • ISBN:9780061336461 • Format:Paperback • Publication Date:2007-09-04
|Number of Pages|
The Language Instinct
|Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)|
8.10 x 5.30 x 1.10 Inches
Customer reviews & ratings
Pinker is a wonderful ...
This is the book that ...
This is the book that blew my mind in college. Never thought of language in this way ever. Perhaps it's the luck of having read this first in my dive into linguistics, but this is one of those books I look fondly back on. Totally made me become much more incensed by grammar Nazis--an idealistic position I now know--and then on a second read a couple years later, made me slid right into the in-between of prescriptive and descriptive ideology where I belong. Definitely recommend.
If your not sure about...
If your not sure about this book. Just pick it up in the bookstore and turn to page 355. If find the chart there terribly amusing then go ahead and buy it. If not you might want to move on.Pinker has obviously thought about this, a lot....people simply assume that words determine thoughts...Sometimes it is not easy to find any words that properly convey a thought. When we hear or read, we usually remember the gist, not the exact words, so there has to be such a thing as a gist this is not the same as a bunch of words....if there can be two thoughts corresponding to one word, thoughts can't be words.Our sixth sense may perceive speech as a language, not as sound, but it is a sense, something that connects us to the world, and not just a form of suggestibility.When a series of facts comes in succession, as in a dialogue or text, the language must be structured so that the listener can place each face into an existing framework.This mirrors my thoughts exactly- not only for words but for knowledge in general....there is a specific syndrome called Pure Word Deafness that is exactly what it sounds like: the patients can read and speak, and can recognize environmental sounds ... but cannot recognize spoken words; words are meaningless...Oh boy! This is sooo me! Often I have to visualize the written words before I can understand what was said.Great advice Pinker received from one of his editors-Think of your readers as your college roommates: people who are as smart and intellectually curious as you...I agreed with most of his conclusions but he lost me at;"The linguistic clumsiness of [age] might be the price we pay for the linguistic genius we displayed as babies"I just don't see why it has to be a zero-sum game.It's funny that the next book I read was Paul Allen's biography. At the end he talks about how incredibly difficult it is to catalog and index vast amounts of information. Pinker was even mentioned by name! Certainly those two geniuses could pool their knowledge and come up with an algorithm based on Pinker's understanding of language to file and organize all that is known on a subject.
This is a book I gave ...
This is a book I gave to my oldest son one Christmas when he was in love with language and it looked like he was heading down the path to becoming a linguist. He went back to school before I could steal the book off his bookshelf to read it, so when I found it on his bookshelf in Seattle I was overjoyed. I've wanted to read this book for a long time. It was worth the wait. Pinker is an excellent science writer and he makes the (often difficult) material as easy to understand as anyone could. An excellent book.
A highly readable acco...
A highly readable account on how language is an inherent characteristic of the human species, which I found a bit unpleasant to read at times. Pinker is such a good writer that I feel a little inadequate in responding to his book, but that aside, I thought it was an erudite book on a complex topic, like all Pinker's books. It is also a bit controversial, as Pinker skewers many a layman's misguided ideas about language, its origins, and its uniqueness to humanity. And not only a layman's ideas; Pinker takes everyone from the social scientists to what he calls the 'language mavens' (editors and other arbiters of prescriptive grammar) to task for promulgating false ideas about language. I found Pinker's more polemical chapters a bit uncongenial, mostly because they attack some of my own subconscious ideas about language. I didn't realise that I felt as strongly about prescriptive grammar until Pinker attacked it and its proponents. I don't mind Pinker's attacks on some of the more archaic rules of grammar (such as split infinitives and ending sentences on prepositions, and so forth) but I did find his fulminating a bit tiresome at times, especially when he sets up some straw men that he can easily knockdown. A quibble, really, but still. Pinker is on much firmer, and to me more interesting, ground when he explains the psychological and evolutionary origins of language. This is simply brilliant and lucid exposition, and I enjoyed it immeasurably. Pinker's explanation of how language evolves in children, and how this seems to argue for a 'language instinct' in humans (Chomsky's Universal Grammar) is masterful. I also enjoyed his withering refutations of the assertions of those primatologists who claim to have taught chimpanzees sign language, and the more absurd claims of some anthropologists (such as the infamous '100 different words for snow' claimed for the Eskimos). My one problem with the book is that it came out in 1994, so how up to date it is, in an ever-changing field, is problematic. I wish Pinker would update the book, but maybe he's too busy writing books about the decline in violence (The Better Angels of Our Nature, which I intend to read next year), and whatnot. Highly recommended, but not one to swallow hook, line, and sinker.
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