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on August 30, 2015
I used it for a class and now intend to use it as an additional reading for a class I teach. Good perspective on the topic and one of the important texts to read.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Steven Pinker is the smartest person in the room; don't fight it. Just listen and learn.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on July 7, 2015
This book reads like a novel more often than a textbook and that's quite nice. Makes reading assignments easy and it's actually quite comprehensive.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 17, 2015
Well, I think this was a great book on words, a good follow up to the last book I read by S.Pinker, had a good think on what it revealed-history, humour and the way we think. Highly recommended
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2015
Before I first read this book twenty years ago, I had little interest in language or linguistics. I bought "The Language
Instinct" on a lark, and I've been thankful ever since that I indulged that whim. Pinker takes the reader on a fascinating tour
of the world of language - a journey that is enlightening, erudite, accessable to an educated layperson, and often humourous.

More than a half century ago the prevailing theory of human language development was informed by behaviorist psychology, and
this theory of language maintained that language acquisition was a matter of learning by stimulus-response dynamics. Language
was viewed as merely a human cultural artifact that need not have developed at all - a fortuitous historical accident. Child
psychologists led parents to believe that extensive verbal engagement with their children was crucial for optimizing language
acquisition, and this view informed educational practices as well. However, in the late 1950s a challenge to the behaviorist
position appeared, and it would touch-off one the most famed debates in the history of academia when the linguist/philosopher
Noam Chomsky introduced a competing theory of language development that rested on the notion that humans are "hard wired" for
language and that all the world's languages are derived from what he called a "Universal Grammar."

Pinker, heavily influenced by Chomsky, takes this notion of a natural human language capability a step further and argues,
forcefully, that there exists a dedicated language module in a normal human brain that facilitates the acquisition and
construction of language. In addition, Pinker also argues that the development of the language capability by our hominid
ancestors must have arisen through Darwinian natural selection - a contention toward which Chomsky is somewhat skeptical.
However, Pinker makes his case in quite a compelling manner and it is no longer controversial, though still not universally
accepted in the linguistics profession. The natural human language competency, the language module in the brain, and the
development of this capability as a Darwinian adaptation together form the thesis of "The Language Instinct."

Pinker also presents some fascinating stories of less conventional developments of language such as:

The formation of pidgin tongues - the ungrammatical aping of a language unknown to the speakers of the pidgin and the evolution
of pidgin into a creole ( a pidgin with grammar), often as soon as the second generation.

The surprisingly sophisticated grammar and syntax found in sign languages.

The grammatical consistency of non-standard dialects such as Black English Vernacular - that actually obeys its own grammatical
rules as regularly as standard English does.

Pinker also explodes that fanciful myth of the human language capabilities exhibited by chimpanzees that was so credulously
accepted a few decades ago, and puts to bed that notion of language-as-thought known in academic circles as the Sapir-Whorf
hypothesis.

I re-read "The Language Instinct" just before writing this review, and found it even more absorbing, not to mention entertaining
than the first time through. If you have any interest in language/linguistics I highly recommend it.
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on April 26, 2015
This is a review of the 2010 Kindle edition of the book published by HarperCollins e-books. Without a doubt Pinker has written a five-star book that is both eye-opening and enjoyable. Out of appreciation to the author, I deducted only one star for errors in the Kindle edition. Since Pinker's book was originally published back in 1994, and by a different publisher, it seems conceivable that HarperCollins did not have a digital text and had to resort to scanning with OCR or some kind of not completely successful conversion process. How else to explain errors like those below? (Not a complete list, but what I thought to highlight as I read through.)

• that had seemed passé concern with topics (“that had seemed passé; concern with topics”)
• opiuminduced “(opium-induced”)
• painti (not i on the end, but subscript 1)
• S -> then S (apparently this should be “S -> if S then S”)
• mittengrabben. 1st (“mittengrabben. Ist” [letter i, not number 1])
• put xin the (“put x in the”)
• @@@ (no telling what this should be, but previously it appears as “m” with an acute accent)
• big nourish things (“big nounish things”)
• Astem (surely Pinker wrote “A-stem” or subscripted “stem”)
• Astemaffix (as above)
• fell to thinking, and chunk. (“fell to thinking, and thunk.”)
• out-Sally-Bided Sally Ride (“out-Sally-Rided Sally Ride”)
• VP -> VNP(PP) (“VP -> V NP (PP)”)
• Steven Tinker’s (even the author’s name is not immune)
• King Ethelbuld (“King Ethelbald”)
• a sad and urgent more. (“a sad and urgent note.”)
• A1 Galaburda (“Al Galaburda” [letter L, not number 1])
• and would not into nothing (“and would rot into nothing”)
• something in he world (“something in the world”)
• analyze the verb to broadcasts (“analyze the verb to broadcast as”)
• No one would say give In break (“No one would say give I a break” [with the words after "say" in italics])
• person off gender (“person of gender”)
• trout is a kind offish and (“trout is a kind of fish and”)
• about twelves times as large (“about twelve times as large”)

In a book with many playful and unusual examples of language, one can’t tell, since the e-book can’t be trusted, whether expressions like “isa” or “American Slurvian” are what Pinker intended, or simply more examples of poor editing. On the positive side, the publisher has evidently cleaned up the Kindle version to some extent, judging from the details in someone else’s 2011 review. Given Amazon’s ability to reach into my Kindle and swap files, I am hoping to find a corrected version of Pinker’s book there soon.
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on April 24, 2015
This is a great book to read and articulates the authors theory of language origins.
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on April 15, 2015
WOW. what an unbiased and enlightening book for anyone interested in one the the three instinctual natural phenomenon of human identity. I wish other scholars could be as honest and unbiased by personal agendas.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 2, 2015
I've only just begun reading it. Seems very interesting. A different concept from the usual.
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on March 16, 2015
I wasn't informed that it was a library book
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