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Linguist Steven Pinker Discusses the Instinct for Language.

Steven Pinker, a psycholinguist at MIT and director of its Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, has a new book on how language works: "The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language" (Morrow). He argues that language is not simply a cultural invention taught by parents and schools, but a biological system, --an instinct-- partly learned, and partly innate. To Pinker, a three year old toddler is a "grammatical genius", capable of obeying adult rites of language, similar to web-spinning in spiders or sonar in bats. His book also takes on "language mavens" like William Safire and Richard Lederer, accusing them of underestimating the average person's language skills.


Other segments from the episode on March 2, 1994

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, March 2, 1994: Interview with Donna Williams; Interview with Steven Pinker; Commentary on the use of English in Berlin, Germany.


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