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'Dazzling...Pinker's big idea is that language is an instinct...as innate to us as flying is to geese...Words can hardly do justice to the superlative range and liveliness of Pinker's investigations' - Independent 'A marvellously readable book...illuminates every facet of human language: its biological origin, its uniqueness to humanity, it acquisition by children, its grammatical structure, the production and perception of speech, the pathology of language disorders and the unstoppable evolution of languages and dialects' - Nature
Seminar paper from the year 2005 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Linguistics, grade: 1.0, University of Duisburg-Essen (Department of English Linguistics), course: Developments in modern Linguistics, 14 entries in the bibliography, language: English, abstract: In 1994, when Steven Pinker’s book “The language instinct” was published, the linguistic world was confronted with the renewed debate, whether language comes from innate ideas or is just the result of experiencing and learning. This important debate which concerns linguistics until today will be the topic of the following work. The important question is, if a language instinct really exists and which evidence one can provide to assume that our language ability is inherited. Until today, there is great discussion and speculation about innate language ideas and the most important proponent for them nowadays is Steven Pinker. To set his nativist ideas in an appropriate context, it is necessary to explain where the ideas of “nativism” and the opposite linguistic school “empiricism” come from and what characteristics they show. This constructs a context and prepares a base for the focus on Pinker’s book. The most important founder of today’s nativist thoughts is certainly Noam Chomsky, whose ideas were the basis for Pinker’s assumption of a language instinct. For this reason, I will present a short summary of Chomsky’s ideas as the last aspect of the first chapter. Pinker’s arguments put forward in his work “The language instinct” will form the main part and second chapter of my work. I will present his definition of a language instinct and his given evidence for its existence. Because of the complexity of the pieces of evidence put forward in his whole work, I will pick up two of his most important aspects for innate language ideas: Pidgin and creoles and the case of the KE-Family. Afterwards, I will focus on two of his critics, Geoffrey Samspon and Stefan Schaden, because they composed both works being direct responses to Pinker’s “The language instinct”. This will permit us to discuss the question about its existence and which of the arguments for and against it appear more convincing. To prepare this discussion at the end, I will particularly have a closer look at Schaden’s and Sampson’s explicit refutes concerning Pinker’s main points of evidence. As a last step, I will summarize and discuss the arguments of the two sides carefully and complete my work with drawing my personal conclusion about the important question, if a language instinct really exists.
When it was first published in 1997, Geoffrey Sampson's Educating Eve was described as the definitive response to Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct and Noam Chomsky's nativism. In this revised and expanded new edition, Sampson revisits his original arguments in the light of fresh evidence that has emerged since the original publication. Since Chomsky revolutionized the study of language in the 1960s, it has increasingly come to be accepted that language and other knowledge structures are hard-wired in our genes. According to this view, human beings are born with a rich structure of cognition already in place. But people do not realize how thin the evidence for that idea is. The 'Language Instinct' Debate examines the various arguments for instinctive knowledge, and finds that each one rests on false premisses or embodies logical fallacies. The structures of language are shown to be purely cultural creations. With a new chapter entitled 'How People Really Speak' which uses corpus data to analyse how language is used in spontaneous English conversation, responses to critics, extensive revisions throughout, and a new preface by Paul Postal of New York University, this new edition will be an essential purchase for students, academics, and general readers interested in the debate about the 'language instinct'.
When it was first published in 1997, Geoffrey Sampson's Educating Eve was described as the definitive response to Steven Pinker's The Language Instinct and Noam Chomsky's nativism. In this revised and expanded new edition, Sampson revisits his original arguments in the light of fresh evidence that has emerged since the original publication. Since Chomsky revolutionized the study of language in the 1960s, it has increasingly come to be accepted that language and other knowledge structures are hard-wired in our genes. According to this view, human beings are born with a rich structure of cognition already in place. But people do not realize how thin the evidence for that idea is. The 'Language Instinct' Debate examines the various arguments for instinctive knowledge, and finds that each one rests on false premisses or embodies logical fallacies. The structures of language are shown to be purely cultural creations. With a new chapter entitled 'How People Really Speak' which uses corpus data to analyse how language is used in spontaneous English conversation, responses to critics, extensive revisions throughout, and a new preface by Paul Postal of New York University, this new edition will be an essential purchase for students, academics, and general readers interested in the debate about the 'language instinct'.
Drawing on cutting-edge research, Evans presents an alternative to the received wisdom, showing how language and the mind really work.
We are capable of writing crisp yet flexible laws, but Solan explains that difficult cases result when the ways in which our cognitive and linguistic faculties are structured fail to produce a single, clear interpretation. Though we are predisposed to absorb new situations into categories we have previously formed, our conceptualization is not always as crisp as the legislative and judicial realms demand. In such cases, Solan contends that other values, most importantly legislative intent, must come into play. The Language of Statutes provides an excellent introduction to statutory interpretation, rejecting the extreme arguments that judges have either too much or too little leeway, and explaining how and why a certain number of interpretive problems are simply inevitable. --Book Jacket.
Blending the spirit of Eats, Shoots & Leaves with the science of The Language Instinct, an original inquiry into the development of that most essential-and mysterious-of human creations: Language Language is mankind's greatest invention-except, of course, that it was never invented." So begins linguist Guy Deutscher's enthralling investigation into the genesis and evolution of language. If we started off with rudimentary utterances on the level of "man throw spear," how did we end up with sophisticated grammars, enormous vocabularies, and intricately nuanced degrees of meaning? Drawing on recent groundbreaking discoveries in modern linguistics, Deutscher exposes the elusive forces of creation at work in human communication, giving us fresh insight into how language emerges, evolves, and decays. He traces the evolution of linguistic complexity from an early "Me Tarzan" stage to such elaborate single-word constructions as the Turkish sehirlilestiremediklerimizdensiniz ("you are one of those whom we couldn't turn into a town dweller"). Arguing that destruction and creation in language are intimately entwined, Deutscher shows how these processes are continuously in operation, generating new words, new structures, and new meanings. As entertaining as it is erudite, The Unfolding of Language moves nimbly from ancient Babylonian to American idiom, from the central role of metaphor to the staggering triumph of design that is the Semitic verb, to tell the dramatic story and explain the genius behind a uniquely human faculty.

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