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The passage below is accompanied by a set of questions. Choose the best answer to each question.
Starting in 1957, [Noam Chomsky] proclaimed a new doctrine: Language, that most human of all attributes, was innate. The grammatical faculty was built into the infant brain, and your average 3-year-old was not a mere apprentice in the great enterprise of absorbing English from his or her parents, but a "linguistic genius." Since this message was couched in terms of Chomskyan theoretical linguistics, in discourse so opaque that it was nearly incomprehensible even to some scholars, many people did not hear it. Now, in a brilliant, witty and altogether satisfying book, Mr. Chomsky's colleague Steven Pinker . . . has brought Mr. Chomsky's findings to everyman. In "The Language Instinct" he has gathered persuasive data from such diverse fields as cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology and speech therapy to make his points, and when he disagrees with Mr. Chomsky he tells you so. . . .
For Mr. Chomsky and Mr. Pinker, somewhere in the human brain there is a complex set of neural circuits that have been programmed with "super-rules" (making up what Mr. Chomsky calls "universal grammar"), and that these rules are unconscious and instinctive. A half-century ago, this would have been pooh-poohed as a "black box" theory, since one could not actually pinpoint this grammatical faculty in a specific part of the brain, or describe its functioning. But now things are different. Neurosurgeons [have now found that this] "black box" is situated in and around Broca's area, on the left side of the forebrain. . . .
Unlike Mr. Chomsky, Mr. Pinker firmly places the wiring of the brain for language within the framework of Darwinian natural selection and evolution. He effectively disposes of all claims that intelligent nonhuman primates like chimps have any abilities to learn and use language. It is not that chimps lack the vocal apparatus to speak; it is just that their brains are unable to produce or use grammar. On the other hand, the "language instinct," when it first appeared among our most distant hominid ancestors, must have given them a selective reproductive advantage over their competitors (including the ancestral chimps). . . .
So according to Mr. Pinker, the roots of language must be in the genes, but there cannot be a "grammar gene" any more than there can be a gene for the heart or any other complex body structure. This proposition will undoubtedly raise the hackles of some behavioral psychologists and anthropologists, for it apparently contradicts the liberal idea that human behavior may be changed for the better by improvements in culture and environment, and it might seem to invite the twin bugaboos of biological determinism and racism. Yet Mr. Pinker stresses one point that should allay such fears. Even though there are 4,000 to 6,000 languages today, they are all sufficiently alike to be considered one language by an extraterrestrial observer. In other words, most of the diversity of the world's cultures, so beloved to anthropologists, is superficial and minor compared to the similarities. Racial differences are literally only "skin deep." The fundamental unity of humanity is the theme of Mr. Chomsky's universal grammar, and of this exciting book.

Question 9 : Which one of the following statements best summarises the author's position about Pinker's book?

  1. Anatomical developments like the voice box play a key role in determining language acquisition skills.
  2. The universality of the "language instinct" counters claims that Pinker's book is racist.
  3. The evolutionary and deterministic framework of Pinker's book makes it racist.
  4. Culture and environment play a key role in shaping our acquisition of language.

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Explanatory Answer

The author calls Pinker's book 'brilliant, witty and altogether satisfying'. In response to the claim that the book is racist, the author states that Pinkers stresses on the 'fundamental unity of humanity' and 'the universal grammar' of language- the universality of 'the language instinct', in other words, to counter such claims. So, option B is the right choice.
Option C is the exact opposite of the author's position.
According to the passage, Pinker argues that though chimps have the vocal apparatus to speak, their brains, unlike human brains, are unable to produce grammar as chimps do not have the 'language instinct'. The author agrees with Pinker's view, so option A is incorrect.
Again, option D is also incorrect, based on the last paragraph. The author says that while some behavioral psychologists and anthropologists believe human behavior may be changed for the better by improvements in culture and environment, Pinker's position (one that the author agrees with) is that the roots of language are in the genes.


The question is " Which one of the following statements best summarises the author's position about Pinker's book? "

Hence, the answer is 'The universality of the "language instinct" counters claims that Pinker's book is racist.'

Choice B is the correct answer.

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