Tag Archives: bookreviews

My notes on ‘the Language Instinct’ by Steven Pinker

I have read the sample version of The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker on my Kindle with keen interest on the subject because it chimes the bells of my soul and heart. This book is a polyphonic work of cognitive science interwoven by multiple strands of biology, history, sociology, psychology and philosophy that tells the truth of the nature of language and why it is a product of human evolutionary biological adaptation, not a socially engineering gizmo that shapes our thoughts. It’s a consilience of the knowledge of science and humanities, vis-à-vis linguistic determinism that we all have been conditioned to believe. Also, the knowledge of a language does not equate one’s level of intelligence because it is the Instinct. Which I find very encouraging and stimulating, for as someone whose English is a second language, the frustration of grammatical errors should not dispirit my spirit and make my heart feel cloddish and slow-witted.

sound and fury – one

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It is the eighth hour when things seem to go wrong, and your spirit feels bereft of knowledge of words and drained of zeal for creativity. It’s the dark night of the soul through no fault of your own, but a repertoire of existential self that collides with the forces of reality dealing with daily tasks of living. Many people cope with such dilemma in a simulation of positive thinking and enterprising attitudes toward the mental obstacles and physical labor. Alas! poor woman, I know her, my dear reader. She has none other than human frailties but always strives for the loftiest, the highest goal that is beyond her reach in the ether where the spirits of the learned and famous float and reign over the middling and underling infatuated with vain hopes and false valuations of themselves yearning for recognition from their intellectual superiors.

Iris likes to write, which is the only legitimate and safe way to manifest her thoughts in anonymity. Anonymity is the rescue of the underdogs whose natural attributions and social planes prevent their souls from growing further. Wearing a cloak of invisibility from Hades guarantees safety and truth and power. It’s a bartering of the face with the voice, and it’s the tragedy of the underlings whose wills are stronger than their natural endowments. “Some are born great, others achieve greatness,” said the ever-wise William Shakespeare. He must have felt the same because Shakespeare, lacking formal education and not being born with a sliver spoon in his mouth, was often ridiculed and is still criticized by his supposed plagiarism and dubious authorship of his plays and poems. For people who have criticized the Bard are the so-called intellectuals crowned with golden wreaths of academic olives who want to discredit all his achievements and his natural talents due to his lowbrow backgrounds. They want to re-invent Shakespeare as a serious literary figure about whom only the elites can talk and appreciate or to create a whole new Shakespeare by possessing his spirit with that of a man with high birth and academic accolades. George Orwell knew all about this fiasco surrounding the authenticity of Shakespeare’s authorship and jested: “If there really is such a thing as turning in one’s grave, Shakespeare must get a lot of exercise.”

Iris believes that reading a book and modelling the writing style of the author is an act of social evolution by which a dispersion of literary knowledge enriches our cultural enterprise and social progress. That is how human civilizations have evolved by constantly borrowing and creating as Hesiod’s Theogony succinctly described as thus: “Out of void comes night. From night comes day.” Likewise, Iris likes to read the writings of her favored authors, such as Stuart Kells, George Orwell, Charlotte Bronte, Paul Johnson and even Stephen King, so that she can write as good as her literary Olympians with Longfellow’s Psalm for life in mind:

“Let us, then, be up and doing,

   With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

   Learn to labor and to wait.”