Read The Language Instinct: The New Science of Language and The Mind by Steven Pinker Free Online
Book Title: The Language Instinct: The New Science of Language and The Mind|
The author of the book: Steven Pinker
Edition: Penguin Group (Australia)
Date of issue: September 1st 2008
Loaded: 1731 times
Reader ratings: 7.3
ISBN 13: 9780141037653
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 2.36 MB
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In my bookshop are lots of books like, 'First 100 Words' and "ABC with pictures", you know those sort of books. We talk to our babies in 'motherese' and we point to things and name them, but we do not teach our babies grammar. We say things like 'look at those puppies there, they are much smaller than these ones here'. We don't explain when to use words like 'those' or 'these' or 'there' and 'here' and where we put them in a sentence.
We don't need to, Pinker says, Chomsky said, that grammar is built-in. That no matter what language a child learns, they will use the words grammatically without any instruction. And if a child learns wildly different languages as say Welsh, Spanish and English (there are many people who grow up speaking these particular three in Patagonia) they will use the correct grammar as well as words without any difficulty at all.
Notes on reading: What I've learned so far: that it takes only one generation to turn a pidgin into a creole (language). Immigrant workers in Hawaii, Japanese, Filipinos, Chinese, Koreans even Portuguese and Europeans spoke to each other in pidgin. Pidgin is a collection of words without any grammar. It's a bit like what most of us who are not linguistically-gifted speak when we travel. We mix the few words we know of the local language with English and (if British) shouted loudly and repetitively until the 'native' gets it.
The children of the immigrant workers were looked after together when their parents were in the fields and they, just like that, because of the instinct for language, for grammar, turned the pidgin into a creole, a language that could express anything and everything. Children never speak pidgin, their brains impose structure on words and they learn from each other. Sadly, the window for language acquisition closes as puberty approaches. After that it is only talented individuals who can acquire a foreign language with perfect grammar and accent.
Jamaican, which Jamaicans continually put down as the patois of the poor people', not proper 'standard English' is in fact a proper language with its own grammar, although a majority of the words are derived from English and Akan,
Pinker says he's not 100% behind Chomsky's theories. He's pretty close though. I got bored with the chapters on Chomsky's language trees, I'm more interested in how we produce language than the structure of it.
Great book, a difficult and academic read (at least to me) and boring in bits too but none of that takes away from opening up a new skein of thought for me, and I enjoy that more than anything else from a book.
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Read information about the authorSteven Arthur Pinker is a prominent Canadian-American experimental psychologist, cognitive scientist, and author of popular science. Pinker is known for his wide-ranging advocacy of evolutionary psychology and the computational theory of mind. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time, and The New Republic, and is the author of seven books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, The Blank Slate, and most recently, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.
He was born in Canada and graduated from Montreal's Dawson College in 1973. He received a bachelor's degree in experimental psychology from McGill University in 1976, and then went on to earn his doctorate in the same discipline at Harvard in 1979. He did research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) for a year, then became an assistant professor at Harvard and then Stanford University. From 1982 until 2003, Pinker taught at the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT, and eventually became the director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience. (Except for a one-year sabbatical at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1995-6.) As of 2008, he is the Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard.
Pinker was named one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world in 2004 and one of Prospect and Foreign Policy's 100 top public intellectuals in 2005. He has also received honorary doctorates from the universities of Newcastle, Surrey, Tel Aviv, McGill, and the University of Tromsø, Norway. He was twice a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, in 1998 and in 2003. In January 2005, Pinker defended Lawrence Summers, President of Harvard University, whose comments about the gender gap in mathematics and science angered much of the faculty. On May 13th 2006, Pinker received the American Humanist Association's Humanist of the Year award for his contributions to public understanding of human evolution.
In 2007, he was invited on The Colbert Report and asked under pressure to sum up how the brain works in five words – Pinker answered "Brain cells fire in patterns."
Pinker was born into the English-speaking Jewish community of Montreal. He has said, "I was never religious in the theological sense... I never outgrew my conversion to atheism at 13, but at various times was a serious cultural Jew." As a teenager, he says he considered himself an anarchist until he witnessed civil unrest following a police strike in 1969. His father, a trained lawyer, first worked as a traveling salesman, while his mother was first a home-maker then a guidance counselor and high-school vice-principal. He has two younger siblings. His brother is a policy analyst for the Canadian government. His sister, Susan Pinker, is a school psychologist and writer, author of The Sexual Paradox.
Pinker married Nancy Etcoff in 1980 and they divorced 1992; he married Ilavenil Subbiah in 1995 and they too divorced. His current wife is the novelist and philosopher Rebecca Goldstein. He has no children.
He is currently working on an upcoming book about the evolution of human morality, specifically focusing on "the historical decline of violence and its psychological roots" as stated by the author himself on the Harvard website.