- Series: Perennial Classics
- Paperback: 544 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; 1 edition (November 7, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0060958332
- ISBN-13: 978-0060958336
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.2 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (223 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #974,536 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (Perennial Classics) 1st Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
A three-year-old toddler is "a grammatical genius"--master of most constructions, obeying adult rules of language. To Pinker, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology psycholinguist, the explanation for this miracle is that language is an instinct, an evolutionary adaptation that is partly "hard-wired" into the brain and partly learned. In this exciting synthesis--an entertaining, totally accessible study that will regale language lovers and challenge professionals in many disciplines--Pinker builds a bridge between "innatists" like MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, who hold that infants are biologically programmed for language, and "social interactionists" who contend that they acquire it largely from the environment. If Pinker is right, the origins of language go much further back than 30,000 years ago (the date most commonly given in textbooks)--perhaps to Homo habilis , who lived 2.5 million years ago, or even eons earlier. Peppered with mind-stretching language exercises, the narrative first unravels how babies learn to talk and how people make sense of speech. Professor and co-director of MIT's Center for Cognitive Science, Pinker demolishes linguistic determinism, which holds that differences among languages cause marked differences in the thoughts of their speakers. He then follows neurolinguists in their quest for language centers in the brain and for genes that might help build brain circuits controlling grammar and speech. Pinker also argues that claims for chimpanzees' acquisition of language (via symbols or American Sign Language) are vastly exaggerated and rest on skimpy data. Finally, he takes delightful swipes at "language mavens" like William Safire and Richard Lederer, accusing them of rigidity and of grossly underestimating the average person's language skills. Pinker's book is a beautiful hymn to the infinite creative potential of language. Newbridge Book Clubs main selection; BOMC and QPB alternates.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Following fast on the heels of Joel Davis's Mother Tongue ( LJ 12/93) is another provocative and skillfully written book by an MIT professor who specializes in the language development of children. While Pinker covers some of the same ground as did Davis, he argues that an "innate grammatical machinery of the brain" exists, which allows children to "reinvent" language on their own. Basing his ideas on Noam Chomsky's Universal Grammar theory, Pinker describes language as a "discrete combinatorial system" that might easily have evolved via natural selection. Pinker steps on a few toes (language mavens beware!), but his work, while controversial, is well argued, challenging, often humorous, and always fascinating. Most public and academic libraries will want to add this title to their collections.
- Laurie Bartolini, Lincoln Lib., Springfield, Ill.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
The latter is pretty slight. If the typeface were the same size as the text, it would probably cover 15 pages. I can think of three reasons for the shortness:
1. Pinker thinks he was right about most everything in 1994 and doesn’t feel the need to change much.
2. He has updated and elaborated numerous things in two later language books, Words and Rules: The Ingredients Of Language and The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, to which he liberally refers. He notes that the last chapter “Mind Design” begat How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. It is obvious that his most recent, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, had beginnings in chapter 12, “The Language Mavens.”
3. He is a very busy man and did not want to take the time necessary for a thorough update.
I suspect all three are partially true. I was disappointed by how often I asked, "Has no recent research been done on ______ or is Pinker just not writing about it?" Which I suppose is a compliment about how interesting Pinker makes language research. Still, the P.S. definitely adds value. It is worth getting this edition.
• 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.
The people who published this for Kindle should be ashamed of themselves for selling this product with a straight face.
As Kindle books are often scanned from printed versions, I'v grown accustomed to seeing the occasional mis-scanned word, as they are usually sparse and don't distract from the content.
This book, however, contains hundreds of mis-scans. I'm talking about a few every page (some pages might contain up to 10 errors). And these are errors that routinely distract from the content of the book, as the errors will sometime spell a different word altogether, giving a sentence a completely different meaning that you will only realize is nonsensical after reading an entire paragraph.
Plus, 2 times out of ten, the combination of letters "th" will be scanned as "di". As you must realize, die difficulty of reading dirough paragraphs full of diese errors, in die kindle version of diis book, dioroughly distracts from the enjoyment of die material.
Most recent customer reviews
What means by “valley girl” in this book? Girls in SF?