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.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
“The Language Instinct” explores the origin and mechanics of human language. The author, Steven Pinker, offers more than a dilettante wants to know about language mechanics. But, Pinker offers credible and interesting information about where human language comes from and how it evolves.
There are many digressions in Pinker’s book about mechanics of speech, language dialects, and specific language disabilities. He criticizes some writers for improper use of language and enlightens listeners about the teachings of Norm Chomsky.
Changes in human language, according to Pinker, are an evolutionary inevitability. The complicated process of language creation is always in a state of change.
Pinker delves into dialects of language that differ by population cohort, environmental interaction, and social interchange. Pinker argues for continuation of rule-making in language but discounts belief that rules should not, cannot, or will not change. Pinker infers language rules should keep pace with common understanding and clear communication.
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.
I was initially concerned by the length of this book, being a sign that I was in for a tedious listen. How pleasantly surprised I was by this clearly written and interesting work. Fascinating look at how similar all languages are and how they evolve over time. Pinker shows that for the human species, language is instinctual. Highly recommended.
Band guy who always wants to be better at something.
This book delves into the history and evolution of language. It's nice to get the "how we got here", which is much more enlightening.
Chapter 1 got me hooked, and the subject is very related to my research. However the book is redundant if you have any idea about Naom Chomsky's work. My take on the book is that most of the research it talks about is not well designed and fails to accept the fact that computers are available.
I would have just referred listeners to accompanying material instead of reading long lists of words or examples that are included in many parts of the book.