The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language | Study Guide

Steven Pinker

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Course Hero. "The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language Study Guide." Course Hero. 1 May 2020. Web. 21 June 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Language-Instinct-How-the-Mind-Creates-Language/>.

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Course Hero. (2020, May 1). The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 21, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Language-Instinct-How-the-Mind-Creates-Language/

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Course Hero. "The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language Study Guide." May 1, 2020. Accessed June 21, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Language-Instinct-How-the-Mind-Creates-Language/.

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Course Hero, "The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language Study Guide," May 1, 2020, accessed June 21, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Language-Instinct-How-the-Mind-Creates-Language/.

The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language | Chapter 1 : An Instinct to Acquire an Art | Summary

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Key Takeaways

  • Humans have the unique ability to influence one another's thoughts. This ability is accomplished primarily through language.
  • Language permits the sharing of information among individuals, connecting them in community, and enhancing their abilities beyond what they could do alone.
  • Cognitive science, a comparatively new discipline, draws upon the fields of psychology, computer science, linguistics, philosophy, and neurobiology with the goal of understanding human intelligence. Studies in cognitive science have advanced the understanding of language.
  • Language is not learned through culture but emerges as a result of biological predisposition within the human brain. Pinker refers to this as "instinct," arguing that humans learn language just as spiders know how to spin webs.
  • Since language is an instinct, it is unlikely to shape thought, as some linguists have theorized.
  • Noam Chomsky revolutionized the understanding of language by arguing that children are innately predisposed to learn language. All humans, Chomsky said, possess Universal Grammar, a template for language acquisition. Chomsky's theory is rooted in two facts. First, most human utterances, of both adults and children, are novel. Second, children learn language quickly and without formal instruction.
  • Prior to the 1950s and Chomsky's theory of Universal Grammar, linguists—influenced by behaviorist theory—believed language was a behavior primarily mediated by external factors.
  • Although Chomsky influenced Pinker, the two differ in their beliefs about the role of evolution in explaining the origins of language. Pinker views language as an evolutionary adaptation, whereas Chomsky is skeptical that natural selection provides an adequate explanation.
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