The Language Instinct Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 24 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Language Instinct.
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The Language Instinct Summary & Study Guide Description

The Language Instinct Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker.

Steven Pinker is a linguist, author, cognitive scientist, and experimental psychologist. Pinker is known as a student and proponent of Noam Chomsky's work, with the exception that Pinker does not believe that language is the by-product of other adaptations.

Pinker begins the book by saying: "As you are reading these words, you are taking part in one of the wonders of the natural world. For you and I belong to a species with a remarkable ability: we can shape events in each other's brains with exquisite precision." Chap. 1, p. 15

Pinker is not speaking about telepathy, mind control, or any other inventions created by fringe science. Pinker refers to language and how it can cause the mind to think about certain things.

Pinker says the book is not about proper usage, idioms or any other commonly found topic. Instead, the book is about the basic need and desire to learn language, to speak and to understand.

English is a wacky language. It defies logic. Pinker discusses George Bernard Shaw's logic that according to certain principles in the English language, "ghoti" could easily be pronounced "fish." Pinker asserts that only institutional inertia prevents our culture from using a phonetic system.

Pinker believes that language is an instinct, not necessarily a skill. Children learn to speak without formal education or the knowledge of all the underlying facts and rules that apply to language.

A great deal of the book is centered on how children learn to use language, whether is it spoken language or sign language. Both are rooted in the left hemisphere of the brain. The ability to master language is neither fully affected by heredity or environment. Pinker shows how children are born with the ability to have complex thoughts including certain mathematic skills. Therefore, language must be an instinct that is innate and not something that creates complex thought.

Pinker explores in great detail that there was once one language and that all language has derived from that language, changed over time by generational alterations, descent, and location.

Pinker is fond of his use of diagrams, which are used to show in depth models of noun phrases, linguistic trees, brain function and much more.

At the end of the book, the reader has a firm grasp on the theory that language is an instinct and that while linguists, scientists and experimental psychologists have not yet isolated the section of the brain that handles subfunctions of language, they most likely do exist.

Pinker looks forward to more brain imaging technologies and the ability to learn more about the language instinct.

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