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The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language (Perennial Classics)by Steven Pinker
Synopses & Reviews
In this classic study, the world's leading expert on language and the mind lucidly explains everything you always wanted to know about languages: how it works, how children learn it, how it changes, how the brain computes it, and how it envolved. With wit, erudition, and deft use it everyday examples of humor and wordplay, Steven Pinker weaves our vast knowledge of language into a compelling story: language is a human instinct, wired into our brains by evolution like web spinning in spiders or sonar bats.
The Language Instinct received the William James Book Prize from the American Psychological Association and the Public Interest Award from the Linguistics Society of America.
"A brilliant, witty, and altogether satisfying book." New York Times Book Review
"An excellent book full of wit and wisdom and sound judgment." Boston Globe Book Review
"An exciting book, certain to produce argument." Atlantic Monthly
"Somebody finally got it right. Pinker's thoroughly modern, totally engaging book introduces lay readers to the science of language in ways that are irreverent and hilarious while coherent and factually sound." Leila Gleitman, University of Pennsylvania, President, Linguistic Society of America
This classic study of the development of the human language explains how language works, how it is learned, how it has evolved, and argues that language is a biological function.
A provocative young scholar gives us the first book on the new science of storytelling: the latest thinking on why we tell stories, what stories reveal about human nature, what makes a story transporting, which plots and themes are universal, and what it means to have a storytelling brainand#8212;what are the implications for how we process information and think about the world?
Humans live in landscapes of make-believe. We spin fantasies. We devour novels, films, and plays. Even sporting events and criminal trials unfold as narratives. Yet the world of story has long remained an undiscovered and unmapped country. Itand#8217;s easy to say that humans are and#8220;wiredand#8221; for story, but why?
In this delightful and original book, Jonathan Gottschall offers the first unified theory of storytelling. He argues that stories help us navigate lifeand#8217;s complex social problemsand#8212;just as flight simulators prepare pilots for difficult situations. Storytelling has evolved, like other behaviors, to ensure our survival.
Drawing on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology, Gottschall tells us what it means to be a storytelling animal. Did you know that the more absorbed you are in a story, the more it changes your behavior? That all children act out the same kinds of stories, whether they grow up in a slum or a suburb? That people who read more fiction are more empathetic?
Of course, our story instinct has a darker side. It makes us vulnerable to conspiracy theories, advertisements, and narratives about ourselves that are more and#8220;truthyand#8221; than true. National myths can also be terribly dangerous: Hitlerand#8217;s ambitions were partly fueled by a story.
But as Gottschall shows in this remarkable book, stories can also change the world for the better. Most successful stories are moraland#8212;they teach us how to live, whether explicitly or implicitly, and bind us together around common values. We know we are master shapers of story. The Storytelling Animal finally reveals how stories shape us.
About the Author
Steven Pinker is one of the world's leading experts on language and the mind. He has won several major awards for his teaching and his scientific research. Pinker is director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Table of Contents
The Witchery of Storyand#8195;1
The Riddle of Fictionand#8195;21
Hell Is Story-Friendlyand#8195;45
The Mind Is a Storytellerand#8195;87
The Moral of the Storyand#8195;117
Ink People Change the Worldand#8195;139
The Future of Storyand#8195;177
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