The Language Instinct Paperback – 3 Feb 2000
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In this illuminating book, Steven Pinker attacks these fundamental questions of language with intense curiosity, energetic wit and clarity --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
From the Publisher
According to Steven PInker, science is an institution that fosters the instinct to make sense of the world while discouraging the instinct to deceive ourselves and one another.
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Top Customer Reviews
Pinker's lively, humorous style is often commented on but I sometimes found it wearing. He will illustrate a point with an amusing newspaper cutting, then list a few more, then add "I could not resist some more..." and so on. I sometimes wished he would just get on with it.
A major problem with his nativist approach is that many examples he lists of usages that English speakers would never employ are nothing of the kind. Most of them are conceivable and since the first publication of this book, linguists have been busy recording them in the field. The thesis also becomes somewhat unravelled in the penultimate chapter, where he argues that 'you and I' and 'you and me' are equally correct in all circumstances, because 'the pronoun is free to have any case it wants'. But if this is so then what has become of the innate awareness of correct usage that the whole theory is about? If 'between you and I' sounds instinctively wrong to me and 'between you and me' sounds instinctively wrong to someone else, does that mean one of us has a mutant grammar gene? I doubt it.
The title itself is problematic.Read more ›
Being a fan of Chomsky, Pinker submits to the notion (and a notion it is) that language and communication aren't necessarily related (as Chomsky (1975) said, "communication is only one function of language, and by no means an essential one"). Although Chomsky in recent years has done a lot to moderate his position, and a lot of research at least suggest that the world has come out of the post-skinnerian, anti-"blank slate" state in which it was in the seventies, when Chomsky reigned, Pinker upholds the sharp divide between grammar and usage. Why?
Because The Language Instinct isn't really about language. It's about completing Pinker's reductionist trilogy, consisting of this one, The Blank Slate, and How the Mind works. In The Language Instinct, Pinker doesn't analyze the facts and draws a valid conclusion. He simply tells us how convenient to his worldview it would be if language really was an instinct. I believe that makes The Language Instinct theology (or at best, philosophy) and not science.
Still, this book is a fine introduction to chomskyan grammar, X-bars and the like. Plus it's fun. But scientifically, it lacks stringency, humility and honesty. The book is filled with thin case studies that could mean the "instinct hypothesis" is correct or wrong, depending on your interpretation (of course Pinker chooses "correct"), and quote mining (the worst example being one in which Pinker gets the one name he's quoting wrong--twice!--plus, the book he's quoting is really about something else than what Pinker claims.Read more ›
I note an earlier reviewer's warning that Pinker presents his own view and that there are others that differ. That's worth knowing when you are as unfamiliar with the subject as I am. Even if he slipped in a few controversial ideas though, I'm sure that I've learned a score of interesting things and, just as importantly (after all, I'm not a student or a teacher), I was very adequately entertained.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellent - I also purchased a copy for a discerning friend's birthday.....Published 1 month ago by Penni Joy
Most interesting non-fiction I have read in years. I am giving this book to many friends.Published 7 months ago by David McAllister
Shame that it doesn't have the same cover (appearance) as that stated in the picture. But very interesting read and well written!Published 9 months ago by Aimee
Love the book, but unfortunately every time I turn a page, this comes off. So I have to stick it again with some tape..Published 9 months ago by Carolina
I read the Chinese translated version first, which was quite annoyed and distorted me a lot in some chapters. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Lingjia Liu