Latest Issue

Is language innate? A new book argues otherwise

Daniel Everett argues instead that language is a cultural invention

By Adrian Woolfson   November 2017

How are languages formed? Photo: flickr/lorenkerns

In this important and fascinating book, Daniel Everett draws on his years of experience studying the languages and cultures of hunter-gatherer tribes in the Brazilian Amazon, to challenge Noam Chomsky’s famous theory of language acquisition. Popularised by Steven Pinker in The Language Instinct, Chomsky’s view is that the capacity for natural language—and more specifically what is called generative grammar—is hard-wired into our brains.

But Everett argues instead that language is a cultural invention. As such, language is not significantly different from other cultural…

Register today to continue reading

You’ve hit your limit of three articles in the last 30 days. To get seven more, simply enter your email address below.

You’ll also receive our free e-book Prospect’s Top Thinkers 2020 and our newsletter with the best new writing on politics, economics, literature and the arts.

Prospect may process your personal information for our legitimate business purposes, to provide you with newsletters, subscription offers and other relevant information.

Click here to learn more about these purposes and how we use your data. You will be able to opt-out of further contact on the next page and in all our communications.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to

More From Prospect