New: Book Report: The Language Instinct (the first third)

I am back from Chicago. (I went to Chicago! It was fun! I got to hang out with my cousin Betsy!) I'm still catching up on mail. I'm still downloading my mail. My main computer is still on a dial-up line. I guess while I wait for that to finish, I can use this DSL-enabled laptop to post a book report about Pinker's Language Instinct, or at least on the fraction that I slogged through before I gave up.

I didn't get much out of this book. It's kinda old. Because it reports on then-ongoing research by many people, many of its ideas had percolated out into the world before it was written. For me, this book dredged up memories of AI classes back in the late 80s, quibbles over knowledge representation.

This book contains many claims. Some I agreed with, some I didn't agree with, some... I wasn't sure what I thought. Some of these claims had interesting evidence behind them, studies that observed how children pick up language. Unfortunately, these were the claims that I already agreed with. So I read about the experiments, which were interesting. Then I read about the musings inspired by those experiments, which were less interesting. And all this was in support of something that I already agreed with. But when there were claims that I disagreed with, or where I would have liked some help making up my mind--there were no studies, only musing.

Well, maybe there were more-informative studies presented later in the book. I only made it through a third before I decided I was wasting my time. Still, the book is well-written. If I was just getting started studying language or AI or cognitive science or whatever the kids are calling it these days, I would want to read this book.

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Posted 2007-02-18