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The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language Paperback – February 1, 1995
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"A brilliant, witty, and altogether satisfying book." -- -- New York Times Book Review
"An extremely valuable book, very informative, and very well written." -- -- Noam Chomsky
"Extremely important." -- -- New Scientist
"A brilliant piece of work." -- Mind and Language
"A brilliant, witty, and altogether satisfying book." -- New York Times Book Review
"An excellent book full of wit and wisdom and sound judgement." -- Boston Globe Book Review
"An exciting book, certain to produce argument." -- Atlantic Monthly
"An extremely valuable book, very informative, and very well written." -- Noam Chomsky
"Extremely important." -- New Scientist
"Somebody finally got it right. Pinker's thoroughly modern, totally engaging book introduces lay readers to the science of language in ways that are irreverant and hilarious while coherent and factually sound." -- Leila Gleitman, University of Pennsylvania, President, Linguistic Society of America
About the Author
- Publisher : Perennial; Reprint edition (February 1, 1995)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 496 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0060976519
- ISBN-13 : 978-0060976514
- Item Weight : 12.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 1.25 x 5.5 x 8.25 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #2,733,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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 discussion re prescriptive v descriptive grammar was rather cliche, and not a little disingenuous, however, insisting that one person's construction of a sentence is as valid as another's as long as it clearly communicates. What the academics seem to be saying is that standards don't matter for you folks, while they all merrily publish their pronouncements using exactly the same standard grammar!