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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…

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