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The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language [Format Kindle]

Steven Pinker
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)

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Descriptions du produit

From Publishers Weekly

A three-year-old toddler is "a grammatical genius"--master of most constructions, obeying adult rules of language. To Pinker, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology psycholinguist, the explanation for this miracle is that language is an instinct, an evolutionary adaptation that is partly "hard-wired" into the brain and partly learned. In this exciting synthesis--an entertaining, totally accessible study that will regale language lovers and challenge professionals in many disciplines--Pinker builds a bridge between "innatists" like MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, who hold that infants are biologically programmed for language, and "social interactionists" who contend that they acquire it largely from the environment. If Pinker is right, the origins of language go much further back than 30,000 years ago (the date most commonly given in textbooks)--perhaps to Homo habilis , who lived 2.5 million years ago, or even eons earlier. Peppered with mind-stretching language exercises, the narrative first unravels how babies learn to talk and how people make sense of speech. Professor and co-director of MIT's Center for Cognitive Science, Pinker demolishes linguistic determinism, which holds that differences among languages cause marked differences in the thoughts of their speakers. He then follows neurolinguists in their quest for language centers in the brain and for genes that might help build brain circuits controlling grammar and speech. Pinker also argues that claims for chimpanzees' acquisition of language (via symbols or American Sign Language) are vastly exaggerated and rest on skimpy data. Finally, he takes delightful swipes at "language mavens" like William Safire and Richard Lederer, accusing them of rigidity and of grossly underestimating the average person's language skills. Pinker's book is a beautiful hymn to the infinite creative potential of language. Newbridge Book Clubs main selection; BOMC and QPB alternates.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Following fast on the heels of Joel Davis's Mother Tongue ( LJ 12/93) is another provocative and skillfully written book by an MIT professor who specializes in the language development of children. While Pinker covers some of the same ground as did Davis, he argues that an "innate grammatical machinery of the brain" exists, which allows children to "reinvent" language on their own. Basing his ideas on Noam Chomsky's Universal Grammar theory, Pinker describes language as a "discrete combinatorial system" that might easily have evolved via natural selection. Pinker steps on a few toes (language mavens beware!), but his work, while controversial, is well argued, challenging, often humorous, and always fascinating. Most public and academic libraries will want to add this title to their collections.
- Laurie Bartolini, Lincoln Lib., Springfield, Ill.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 1228 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 546 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0060958332
  • Editeur : Penguin; Édition : New Ed (27 février 2003)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B002RI9DJW
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (1 commentaire client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°260.500 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Commentaires client les plus utiles
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Une révélation! 7 décembre 2014
Par PL
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Steven Pinker a une façon très intéressante de présenter les résultats des recherches dans l'acquisition du langage chez l'enfant. J'ai aussi adoré "The sense of style" du même auteur et sa conception pragmatique de la grammaire.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.0 étoiles sur 5  184 commentaires
214 internautes sur 220 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 book's good, but STAY AWAY FROM KINDLE EDITION! 31 mai 2011
Par Eduardo Vila - Publié sur
Format:Format Kindle|Achat vérifié
This is not a review of the book itself, just a warning for anyone thinking of getting the Kindle edition.

The people who published this for Kindle should be ashamed of themselves for selling this product with a straight face.

As Kindle books are often scanned from printed versions, I'v grown accustomed to seeing the occasional mis-scanned word, as they are usually sparse and don't distract from the content.

This book, however, contains hundreds of mis-scans. I'm talking about a few every page (some pages might contain up to 10 errors). And these are errors that routinely distract from the content of the book, as the errors will sometime spell a different word altogether, giving a sentence a completely different meaning that you will only realize is nonsensical after reading an entire paragraph.

Plus, 2 times out of ten, the combination of letters "th" will be scanned as "di". As you must realize, die difficulty of reading dirough paragraphs full of diese errors, in die kindle version of diis book, dioroughly distracts from the enjoyment of die material.
169 internautes sur 174 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Despite Excellent Arguments, Some Readers Miss the Point 17 février 1999
Par Un client - Publié sur
This is a superb introduction to generative linguistics (both phonology and syntax). Pinker has successfully simplified most of the complex methodological and notational issues to make these somewhat opaque fields more accessible to lay readers. As such, this is an ideal introductory text and a good reference for linguistic types who have had to forego the Ivory Tower but who want to keep their feet wet. What this text is not is an advanced, graduate-level text--and so don't expect that. If you've read any other book on generative theory (or better yet, minimalist theory), this book is backstepping. (Note that the negative reviewers of this title are also showing off how "advanced" they are--thereby missing the very point to this text!) On the other hand, if you're fascinated by language at all, no matter the reason, you owe it to yourself to try this text out. I have colleagues in non-linguistics fields of study (particularly literature) who don't understand why language isn't static, why the idea of "grammaticality" changes over time--or that Black Vernacular English and Sign Language are as well grammared as "standard" English. If you've been curious about any of these issues or more--buy and read "The Language Instinct."
85 internautes sur 93 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Inspirational 24 mai 2001
Par S. Poggi - Publié sur
The enlightened Stephen Pinker delivers a masterful compendium on linguistic theory that is truly enjoyable to read. His fine use of wit and literary fluency makes this book very enjoyable and emulates the great Richard Dawkins in the way that it seeks (and succeeds) in reaching the layman, the student, and the academician. To put it bluntly, I had never been interested in Linguistics. It seemed to be a stuffy field of repetition of high school "grammar". When assigned to read this book for a Cognitive Development Psychology course, I approached it with dread. It turned out to be the highlight of my current academic quarter. Pinker, using clean evidence to back his claims, makes some wonderful assertions about Linguistics. This book, couched in the fascinating field of evolutionary psychology, does a good job of explaining the formation and foibles of a Universal Language. He justly attacks the ridiculously ingrained Standard Social Science Model of Language and delivers a cohesive explanation from a Psychologically oriented perspective. Unlike what most critics state, Pinker does NOT say that genes are the only basis of language, but rather supports the fundamental basis of evolutionary psychology. It goes a bit like this: the environment of our hunter-gatherer ancestors selected for certain genes to proliferate. These genes code us to synthesize certain proteins at certain times in our development to form certain physiological mechanisms (arms, lungs, brain, etc). Of these, he argues that the brain is not a general purpose processing tool but rather a domain specific one with an appropriate "Language Center". This causes us to have an innate mechanism for language and, therefore, an innate "Mentalese" and a Universal Grammar. HOWEVER - he also says that culture is necessary!! Without culture, one could never learn the particulars of their own language and, after a certain developmental threshold, would be without any specific language.
I apologize for the length of this endorsement. It just seemed that some possible, deconstructive critiques could seem compelling without some understanding of what Pinker was really getting at - the inherent beauty of human language and our "instinct" for it. So, if you skimmed this recommendation, know only this: "THIS BOOK IS WONDERFUL AND COVERS A GREAT RANGE AND DEPTH OF LINGUISTICS. A FUN AND INSPIRATIONAL READ".
83 internautes sur 92 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 The one book on linguistics for the layperson 28 octobre 1999
Par Un client - Publié sur
For the educated layperson, this book is the most fascinating and engaging introduction to linguistics I have come across. I know some college students who had received xeroxed handouts of one chapter from this book, and these were students who were just bored of reading handouts week after week... but after reading just a few paragraphs from The Language Instinct, they were hooked, fascinated, and really wanted to read the whole book (and did). I wish I had come across such a book years ago...
If you've wished you'd taken linguistics, and never did, get this book. This one book will do it for you! Pinker is intelligent, but more importantly is a master of illustrative examples for the layperson. However, the text is never "dumbed-down" and can be a challenge to any reader.
I've read some of the other readers' reviews... unfortunately some focus more on applying academic thought-criticisims of his nativist viewpoint. Certainly, if you are coming from an academic bent, yes, I would agree that it would be a gross misrepresentation to say that Pinker presents the definitive state of the art in linguistics, or that all linguists think like he does... in fact, the critical reviewers are right, Pinker is but one linguist in one theoretical camp, the "nativist" camp, i.e. the theory that genes drive language and its acquisition in a task-specific manner. But so what? Pinker's theory is not what drives enjoyment of the book; it's the enthusiasm and skill with which he can introduce any reader to the topic of the study of language! : It's not dry! It's fun!
His viewpoint is already apparent by the title; the true value of this gem of a book is for introducing to the layperson LINGUISTICS and the depth of the kinds of questions that can be asked about language... these questions can be "beautiful," and certainly most readers would not have thought of these issues themselves, yet after Pinker's examples, it all makes wonderful sense, and is memorable and lucid. Whether or not the reader agrees with Pinker after becoming sophisticated upon further readings is not relevant; without The Language Instinct, Pinker's engaging introduction to the field, many would never wish to become linguistically sophisticated in the first place!
The sort of reader who should pay attention to the specific thought-criticisms of some of the other reviewers should really be elsewhere, reading and critiquing Pinker's academic works, e.g. journal articles, or his book "Language Learnability and Language Development," not nitpicking a book meant for introducing the masses to the beauty of language! If you aren't a linguist, I would hazard that the majority of potential readers are safe to completely ignore these thought-criticisms when pondering their potential enjoyment of purchasing this book from Amazon.
These critical reviewers should be reading/writing journal articles in the academic literature! However if you are in the grey area of reading this book for an academic reason not strictly defined as Linguistics, these specific thought-criticisms are valid to take note of and to consider-- I would concede that some niches of academics (e.g. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh of chimpanzee artificial language) may be taking The Language Instinct text, a book for the layperson, as an academic gospel of the entire field of Linguistics, without really considering the underlying technical issues or counterarguments.
Overall, you likely won't find another book which presents the beauty & complexity of language with the ease of The Language Instinct. If you are to have but one book in your library on language, this should be the one.
61 internautes sur 73 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Read it, but read it critically 2 octobre 2005
Par Peter Reeve - Publié sur
Format:Broché|Achat vérifié
Addressing as it does issues of cognition, language usage and acquisition, evolutionary biology and innate versus learned behavior, this work is relevant to many of the great intellectual debates of our time. It is very readable for the most part, although if some of the topics are new to you then you will find a few sections rather heavy going. More illustrations would have helped here. There are syntax structure diagrams and one very grudging, cursory sketch of the language centers of the brain, but many sections cry out for a diagram among all the verbiage.

Pinker's lively, humorous style is often commented on but I sometimes found it wearing. He will illustrate a point with an amusing newspaper cutting, then list a few more, then add "I could not resist some more..." and so on. I sometimes wished he would just get on with it.

A major problem with his nativist approach, which other reviewers have commented on, is that many examples he lists of usages that English speakers would never employ are nothing of the kind. Most of them are conceivable and since the first publication of this book, linguists have been busy recording them in the field. The thesis also becomes somewhat unraveled in the penultimate chapter, where he argues that 'you and I' and 'you and me' are equally correct in all circumstances, because 'the pronoun is free to have any case it wants'. But if this is so then what has become of the innate awareness of correct usage that the whole theory is about? If 'between you and I' sounds instinctively wrong to me and 'between you and me' sounds instinctively wrong to someone else, does that mean one of us has a mutant grammar gene? I doubt it.

The title itself is problematic. 'Instinct' is not a word much in favor among biologists nowadays and whatever language is, it is certainly not instinctive in the traditional sense. Early in the book, Pinker admits as much, but determines to use the word anyway, a use that owes more to marketing than to science.

Still, this is probably the best introductory linguistics text currently available. If you are new to linguistics, start here rather than with Chomsky, but please go on to read Geoffrey Sampson's work, perhaps starting with his website, to get an alternative view. As with most academic disputes, the answer no doubt lies somewhere in the middle. Since Chomsky's early work, the nativists have toned down their claims considerably, while their opponents have made concessions. On page 34 of this book, Pinker says, "No one has yet located a language organ or a grammar gene, but the search is on." More than a decade later, the search is still on. Good luck with that.
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