Linguist and author Naomi S. Baron. Her book, "Growing up with Language" (Addison-Wesley publishers, 1992) examines the process by which children learn to use language. Baron is Professor of Linguistics and associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences at the American University in Washington DC. (Interview by Barbara Bogaev)
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.
Russ Rymer is a journalist who has written for The New Yorker, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. He has just written his first book, "Genie," about the discovery in 1970 of a thirteen year old girl who had lived her entire life locked in a room of her parent's house. Genie had no language or social skills. Her discovery coincided with a raging debate among scientists about the origin of language. Michael Dorris writes about the book, "At once a scientific detective story and an examination of professional ethics. . .