Language is magical. It is the transmutation of our imaginations to another, or as Steven Pinker, in The Language Instinct writes: “Simply by making noises with our mouths, we can reliably cause precise new combinations of ideas to arise in each other’s minds.” And when we socialise and use it to connect, it becomes something of great power. But, what exactly is it? Where does it come from? And why are the answers to those questions important?
In The Language Instinct Steven Pinker sets about demystifying the very human, “the instinct to learn, speak, and understand language.” He does this by suggesting that language is innate. Pinker uses Noam Chomsky’s ground-breaking linguistic theory of “a Universal Grammar” that codifies the infinite complexity of language, then, diverges from Chomsky in suggesting that it may be “fruitful to consider language as an evolutionary adaptation, like the eyes, its major parts designed to carry out important functions.” As Darwin himself wrote in The Descent of Man, “Man has an instinctive tendency to speak, as we see in the babble of our young children… no philologist now supposes that any language has been deliberately invented; it has been slowly and unconsciously developed by many steps.”
So, Pinker combines these two great thinkers to forge the intellectual tour de force in The Language Instinct, and he does so with precision, reasonable evidence, and razor-sharp wit...
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