The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language

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9780060976514: The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language

In The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker, well-known for his revolutionary theory of how children acquire language, lucidly explains everything you always wanted to know about language: how it works, how children learn it, how it changes, how the brain computes it, how it evolved. With wit, education, and deft use of everyday examples of humor and wordplay, Pinker weaves our vast knowledge of language into a compelling story: language is a human instinct, wired into our brains by evolution like web spinning in spiders or sonar in bats.

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About the Author:

Steven Pinker is one of the world's leading experts on language and the mind. He has won several major awards for his teaching and his scientific research. Pinker is director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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.

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