Geoffrey Sampson, The “language instinct” debate. Revised edition. London and New York: Continuum, 2005. Pp. xiii, 224. Pb $30.00.
First published in 1997 under the title Educating Eve but now revised and expanded and with a useful foreword from Paul Postal, this book presents and critiques all the main arguments that have been offered in support of the thesis that a body of language-specific knowledge is innate in the human child. Sampson finds the thesis unproven on detailed grounds of logic or evidence, and proceeds to sketch an alternative basis for first-language development, rooted in Popperian science and nurture. As the new title indicates, the book purports specifically to respond to Steven Pinker's The language instinct, but somewhat surprisingly Pinker's book isn't extensively debated here: It seems that the publishing demigod is mostly objected to for having renewed the intellectual standing of the nativist stance in the 1990s, and matters are certainly further confused by Sampson's frank admiration for Pinker's more recent The blank slate.