The Language Instinct - Chapter 12: The Language Mavens Summary & Analysis

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Chapter 12: The Language Mavens

Pinker wonders how it is possible for people to say that the humpback whale's song contains errors or that dolphins do not swim properly. When it comes to human language, many people think that such things are cause for alarm. Language is degenerating as society embraces the patois of surfers and jocks who believe that one word ("awesome") is a sentence. If we do not respect the language it will continue to decay.

Pinker delves into the difference between "grammatical" and "ungrammatical." There is a contradiction with the fact that "rule," "grammatical" and "ungrammatical" have different definitions for the scientist and the layperson. Rules are prescriptive rules which mean that they prescribe how someone should talk. Scientists look at descriptive rules which explore how people actually talk. Pinker introduces the language mavens. These are the...

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