Important background to linguistics and cognitive science wrt language, though readers should follow up with more recent accounts of particular areas of interest (good suggestions in the afterward).
If you're a English Major or language major in general, you might like this book. Otherwise, you're will to listen will me smashed in by this book's huge list type example methodology.
I'd give it a mixed review. The book has many details at the level of morphemes that are pretty hard to listen to, but I know I'd never have finished the book reading. Some of the data is dated (e.g. genome mapping, brain hemisphere stuff), which does reduce the credibility of some of the arguments. He also seems to be pretty selective in cherry-picking data to support his ideas. Still though, I learned a lot and enjoyed most of it.
It was a great book. I am a speech therapist so my interest in this topic would probably be greater than other listeners. It can not be stressed enough, the ability to use language is such a driving force, its is what makes is human. Why wouldn't everyone want to know more about it? The fair use doctrine get a bit bruised in the Great Courses on the same topic by borrowing so heavily from this book. I would recommend using this as a great source.
I really like his viewpoint when discussing how monkeys have DNA that is 99% identical to human. His discussion on evolution was insightful. It really put it in prospective.
IT was Fine. His frontal lisp (distortion of "s") was noticeable but not a distraction. I only mention it because others made a big deal about it.
It was a book I did not want to stop listening. But I am unique in my appreciation of his book. I think the average person who is interested in the topic would really like it. It get a bit boggy around chapter four. It's readability level might require someone to possess an undergraduate or graduate degree.
It does listen like a text book but is that bad?
I happened to start listening to this book after listening to a few of The Great Courses lectures on language by John McWorther, which were excellent - both interesting and entertaining.
This book, in comparison, sounds almost like a textbook on linguistics. The concepts a much belaboured on, with excruciating details of the experiments conducted, complete with tedious and long explanations of what it means; when most people would get it themselves early into the passage.
I'd originally read The Language Instinct about ten years ago, so I knew what to expect. My feelings about the book haven't changed - I think throwing out the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis completely and Pinker's ridiculous attack on the social sciences weaken an otherwise excellent book. I was pleased to see that this new version includes updates with the latest research.
Morey's performance was average at best. When reading a technical/academic text like this, mispronunciations of terms and the names of Amazonian and Australian Aboriginal peoples is unforgivable. 'Warrrlll-pearee' for Warlpiri (prounounced wall-PREE)? Really?
I have always had an interest in language, but this book goes WAY too in-depth for my interests. I enjoyed the first quarter of the book and it held my interest with cognitive science and evolutionary theory related to language development. Then it moved long-term into highly-detailed language structure and other details that couldn't hold my attention - think 9th grade grammar on steroids. I stuck with it for a few more hours and also tried skipping ahead, but I knew I was wasting my time and bailed on it half way through. It didn't help that the narrator is the type who over-enunciates and has a passionless, unnatural speaking style that reminds you with every syllable that they are a professional narrator with apparently zero interest in the topic.
This is a long book, and I found myself skipping forwards through sections as it does become quite technical in parts - more so than I expected.
having said that, it is full of information, interesting anecdotes and case studies, but some of it is difficult to listen to (as opposed to read) given how complex the detail in parts
This is a reissue of a classic book from 1994. Arthur's reading is well paced with a calm manor allowing the listener to follow some intense sentence diagrams without the expected PTSD flashbacks from Mrs. Thomas' 8th grade English class. It is an enjoyable book, an interesting subject, precisely written, read well.
I'm kind of conflicted about this book. On one hand, I had some serious difficulty managing to slog through it. Even in his more recent books, Pinker has a hard time making his information tell a story that holds the reader's interest (to his credit, he's gotten a little better in his last couple of books). This being an earlier work, you get to see him take nerd to a level you might not even realize existed without much in the way of charm or readability. His ability to get way too involved in over analyzing the mist insignificant details is both what makes him so fascinating and at the same boring beyond measure.
With all that said, sometimes people are in the mood for actually understanding something. Nonfiction books are supposed to be educational, but too often they are dumbed down and simplified, which can be quite unsatisfying. Sometimes slogging through difficult material can give greater rewards than books that spoon feed and smooth out the edges. Sometimes the tangents that analyze minute details satisfy curiosities that might otherwise linger. Pinker certainly "leaves no stone unturned", as the cliché goes. The result is that I really feel like I learned something instead of reading fluff or unbalanced ideology. Pinker does spend a little too much time getting into the nerd version of pissing matches with his contemporaries, but this isn't the worst example of this I've seen from him.
I've gone back and forth on whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars. I guess it's one book that can fit all over the rating scale for different reasons. But I am very glad I read it, and other people who like to get to the bottom of things will too.