Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Language Instinct

I thought that this book by Steven Pinker was very interesting. It goes from sentence diagramming (which I don't think I ever learned) to the makeup of the brain to case studies of linguistic savants and computer programs that try to emulate human conversation. Though the information is densely packed into this volume, it is still entertaining. I wouldn't pick it up if I wanted a light read, but if you're as interested in linguistics as I am, this seems like it was a great introductory book.
Pinker's assertion is that humans are born with an instinct to learn language, and a specific window in which we are optimally prepared to learn it-- which is why people who learn second languages later in life learn more slowly, and have thicker accents. He also brings up the sad cases of those poor folk who have been raised without language, in insanely neglectful and abusive households. They can never learn any language as well as someone who is raised with it, though some have invented languages of their own.
Another particularly interesting aspect of this book was Pinker's propensity for bringing in examples from other languages. I liked it when he used examples from Japanese, since I've studied it, but there were some absolutely fascinating examples from various African languages as well. It's wonderful to see these wildly different languages broken down into their component pieces to find out that they are not so different after all.

I would definitely suggest that anyone interested in linguistics read this book-- I am sure I have not done it justice.

More Sookie Stackhouse

Okay, so I now realize that it might be kind of silly to keep writing reviews for every Sookie Stackhouse novel-- they're all written by the same woman, in the same style, with the same characters, for the most part. If you like the first one, you're going to like the rest of them. So I thought I might condense the rest of the books into one review, writing only a sentence or two about each title.
And I suppose I should mention now that I am not fond of the cover art at all. The cover of Dead Until Dark was the best of the lot. After that, they switch to a strange, stylistic, almost childish style. I've also never been a fan of the little starbursts on the cover of books that proclaim that they're in Oprah's book-of-the-month club, or now a new HBO series, or a movie, or whatever. I think I would prefer a similar notice inside the book somewhere... or even just inside the cover. It's just such an eyesore. Ah, well.

Dead to the World : The Viking vampire Eric loses his memory due to a curse, and is put in the unique position of being the only male character in the series (so far) who has the opportunity to fall in love with Sookie twice. We learn a little more about witchcraft, and fairies.

Dead as a Doornail : We get a better look into the werepanther society in Hotshot. Sookie puts on her detective hat again.

Definitely Dead : Sookie's estranged cousin Hadley, who had become a vampire and the consort of the Queen of Louisiana, is murdered. She leaves all of her possessions for Sookie to go through, and Sookie is drawn into intrigue after intrigue. We learn a little more about witches and Wiccans.

All Together Dead : There is an important vampire convention, and Sookie is dragged along as an accessory of the Queen.

From Dead to Worse : Oh my goodness, it ends with such a tweest! I can't wait for the next book to come out.

Sorry for the extremely short 'reviews,' but as I said, they are all written very similarly, and if you like one, you'll like the rest. Also, I finished them quite a while ago, and just haven't gotten around to writing about them.
I would definitely recommend both the HBO show and the book series. They go in such different directions, but each in interesting.