The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (P.S.)

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (P.S.)

Steven Pinker

Language: English

Pages: 576

ISBN: 0061336467

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

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physio- logical processes that are lawful even when, hidden. For example, the biochemical organization of an organism enables it to grow and move, and is lost when it dies. Fourth, because organisms have separate genotypes and phenotypes, they have a hidden "essence" that is conserved as they grow, change form, and reproduce. For example, a caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly are in a crucial sense the same animal. Remarkably, people's unschooled intuition about living things seems to

eaten, or die mateless. To the extent that mental mod- ules are complex products of natural selection, genetic variation will be limited to quantitative variations, not differences in basic design. Genetic differences among people, no matter how fascinating they are to us in love, biography, personnel, gossip, and politics, are of minor interest to us when we appreciate what makes minds intelligent at all. Similarly, an interest in mind design puts possible innate differences between

or story line because a list of words blurted out of the blue has none. Though we may call upon high-level conceptual knowledge in noisy or degraded circumstances (and even here it is not clear whether the knowledge alters perception or just allows us to guess intelligently after the fact), our brains seem designed to squeeze every last drop of phonetic information out of the sound wave itself. Our sixth sense may perceive speech as language, not as sound, but it is a sense, something that

0 9 as in the toy example. When the local ambiguities fail to cancel each other out and two consistent trees are found for the same sentence, we should have a sentence that people find ambiguous, like Ingres enjoyed painting his models nude. My son has grown another foot. Visiting relatives can be boring. Vegetarians don't know how good meat tastes. I saw the man with the binoculars. But here is the problem. Computer parsers are too meticulous for their own good. They find ambiguities

"fixed-word-order" language where each phrase has a fixed position. "Free-word-order" languages allow phrase order to vary. In an extreme case like the Australian aboriginal language Warlpiri, words from different phrases can be scrambled together: This man speared a kangaroo can be expressed as Man this kangaroo speared, Man kangaroo speared this, and any of the other four orders, all completely synonymous. 3. English is an "accusative" language, where the subject of an intransitive

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