The Language Instinct: Summary of the Key Ideas - Original Book by Steven Pinker: How the Mind Creates Language by EvolvoLanguage is an essential part of our lives, but most of us don’t think much about the complicated processes behind it. In “The Language Instinct”, the author takes a closer look at how language works and discusses different theories regarding its origins. He argues that language is an innate instinct rather than something we learn from people around us.
Who should read this book:
• People interested in finding out more about the origins of language.
• Anyone who wants to get deeper insights into linguistics and learn how sentences are formed.
• People who want to know more about the impressive language acquisition abilities of babies.
In this summary:
Chapter 1: We are born with the ability to learn languages
Chapter 2: Languages are created through creolization
Chapter 3: We dont think in words or images, but use a language of thought
Chapter 4: Our brain contains a mental dictionary and grammar
Chapter 5: We have a sixth sense for perceiving language
Chapter 6: Grammar rules are different for every language
Chapter 7: Our innate language skills are developed during childhood
Chapter 8: Humans are the only organisms who can use such a complex form of communication
Chapter 9: The quality of language seems to be deteriorating
Chapter 10: We all possess universal traits
Chapter 11: Final Summary
The Language Instinct Summary
There has been a revolution in the field of linguistics over the past 50 years, initiated by the work of Noam Chomsky. Prior to him, social scientists thought, consistent with the dominant Behaviorist perspective of the day and also with common sense , that children picked up language from those around them through simple exposure, imitation, and reinforcement. This insight has led to a re-conceptualization of the field of linguistics and there has been an explosion of research on how grammatical rules are learned and what aspects of language might be universal across different cultures. There are many hypotheses, unsettled questions, and controversies in the field, but there have also been many insights, and I think we in the general public have not had enough exposure to these insights. Pinker has written two fantastic books that I want to discuss in this post:. These books shed light on how our minds work with respect to this incredible and unique ability we have to utilize advanced language to communicate with each other. In this post, I will offer my summary of the points that I found most compelling.
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. 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.
Lesson 2: All languages are based on the same two core principles.
As the title suggests, Pinker's The Language Instinct supports the theory that language is innate and that humans have a common "universal grammar". This is a major theme of his book. Another is the correction of common misconceptions about language and the refutation of popular "factoids" with no basis in reality. A whole chapter is devoted to refuting the arguments of language "mavens", pedants who worry more about normative grammatical rules than clear writing or the realities of human language. But The Language Instinct is actually a fairly comprehensive introduction to linguistics. Pinker begins with a quick survey of the most obvious evidence for the innateness of language — the growth of creoles from pidgins , the existence of sign languages, the even distribution of language ability, and studies of brain-damaged speakers.
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. 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 uses three examples to prove this point.