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The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language | [Steven Pinker]

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language

In this classic, the world’s expert on language and mind 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, and how it evolved. With deft use of examples of humor and wordplay, Steven Pinker weaves our vast knowledge of language into a compelling story: language is a human instinct, wired into our brains by evolution. The Language Instinct received the William James Book Prize from the American Psychological Association....
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Publisher's Summary

In this classic, the world’s expert on language and mind 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, and how it evolved. With deft use of examples of humor and wordplay, Steven Pinker weaves our vast knowledge of language into a compelling story: language is a human instinct, wired into our brains by evolution.

The Language Instinct received the William James Book Prize from the American Psychological Association and the Public Interest Award from the Linguistics Society of America. This edition includes an update on advances in the science of language since The Language Instinct was first published.

©2011 Steven Pinker (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Pinker writes with acid verve." (Atlantic Monthly)

"An extremely valuable book, very informative, and very well written." (Noam Chomsky)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.1 (423 )
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  •  
    Adu 06-22-15
    Adu 06-22-15
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    "Includes brief updates on each chapter."
    Any additional comments?

    At the end of the book, there are brief updates, chapter by chapter, on more recent developments. (And it seemed that there wasn't much, of the 1994 material, that was really outdated.)

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John 05-24-15
    John 05-24-15 Listener Since 2009
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    "makes me want to read more from Steven Pinker"

    An excellent explication of evolutionary neo-Chomsky-aniism. A bit tedious in its minutia. Deliberately perhaps, to bring to mind Darwin's seminal work. Well worth a listen if you don't mind sleeping through some of it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    Amazon Customer 01-17-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Horrible vocal performance"

    I could not finish listening to this book...the narrator's hypercorrected unnatural pronunciation grated on my ears.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    words 01-11-15
    words 01-11-15
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    "nice background - field has advanced since publish"

    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).

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Samuel Aldrich Yokota AB, JP 12-17-14
    Samuel Aldrich Yokota AB, JP 12-17-14 Member Since 2014

    Samuel Aldrich

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    "Overly Detailed"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    RI in Canada 11-07-14
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    "Too much detail in the middle"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lloyd SOUTHLAKE, TX, United States 09-05-14
    Lloyd SOUTHLAKE, TX, United States 09-05-14
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    "Great Listen. Recommended it to everyone."
    If you could sum up The Language Instinct in three words, what would they be?

    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.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Language Instinct?

    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.


    Which character – as performed by Arthur Morey – was your favorite?

    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.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    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.


    Any additional comments?

    It does listen like a text book but is that bad?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Dimitri 09-02-14
    Dimitri 09-02-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Long-winded and boring"

    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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 06-29-14
    CHET YARBROUGH LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 06-29-14 Member Since 2015

    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.

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    "HUMAN LANGUAGE"

    “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.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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    damarques Brasília, Brazil 03-29-14
    damarques Brasília, Brazil 03-29-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Solid book about the nature of language"
    If you could sum up The Language Instinct in three words, what would they be?

    Darwin wins again.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Steven Pinker explains very clearly the theory of human language as a biological adaptation. And he teaches you a lot of related subjects along the way.

    The way Pinker conveys knowledge to the layperson and the specialist at the same time reminds me of Carl Sagan. Pinker's book is very well written and makes you want to read more and more about the subjects involving human language. In contrast, I was reading one of Terrence Deacon's books about language and got stuck with his tiresome writing.


    Which character – as performed by Arthur Morey – was your favorite?

    About the narrator, this was the second book I listened with Arthur Morey. Like in "The Better Angels of our Nature" his performance was flawless.


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    Yes, but it's 19 hours of audio!


    Any additional comments?

    Excellent book for the lovers of linguistics. And an excellent opportunity for those interested in knowing more about this subject without getting bored.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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