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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.

Critic Reviews

"Pinker writes with acid verve." ( Atlantic Monthly)
"An extremely valuable book, very informative, and very well written." (Noam Chomsky)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.2 out of 5.0
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Narrators MUST Do Their Homework

What did you like best about this story?

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.

Would you be willing to try another one of Arthur Morey’s performances?

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?

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Interesting but more technical than expected

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

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

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Books on language are best on audio

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.

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  • Blake
  • Portland, OR, United States
  • 04-14-13

Dense, slow, dry, technical and totally brilliant

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.

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  • Randy
  • Bakersfield, CA, United States
  • 03-30-13

Not your typical linguistic book.

What did you love best about The Language Instinct?

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.

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UGH! Forget It!!

I'm 24% done and that's enough. I'm not learning a thing, it's very text-booky, and nowhere near as interesting as I hoped it would be.

I don't like to waste my money so I often plow through books even if I don't like them ... but this one was only 5$; not worth the effort!

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Rachel
  • BUCKHANNON, WV, United States
  • 02-25-13

Hang in there

Any additional comments?

Very informative and mostly interesting, but you must bear through some less interesting sections here and there as Pinker explains some important concepts.

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  • Rachel
  • YAKIMA, WA, United States
  • 11-29-12

Good book, feels a bit dated, but features updates

I enjoyed this book, though some of the pieces of information or anecdotes weren't new to me. I liked how the author clearly laid out his arguments, though I didn't always need 15 examples of the phrase or concept he was explaining. The book was a pleasant listen and I was pleased that it was broader than a basic discussion of language. The author allowed himself to spend time explaining related concepts and instincts to put the language stuff in perspective.

My main concern with the book was that it was a bit dated in places, including one reference that was just ridiculous from a 2012 perspective (but not central to the story Pinker was trying to tell). The book was first written in 94, I think, but was updated more recently. The end of book addresses those dated items. It was nice to hear a short update on some of the affected topics, though it sounds like Pinker's general theories did not change. The dated bits were mostly just pop culture references, I think the science (or theory) holds up.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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A solid introduction to language science

Would you consider the audio edition of The Language Instinct to be better than the print version?

Although the narrator was excellent, I kept wondering what the written page might look like as Pinker gives many examples that are sometimes just subtly different.

Have you listened to any of Arthur Morey’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I've not listened to this narrator before, but he does a superb job of making clear and comprehensible a dense work of explication.

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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 1 people found this review helpful