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Human languages are capable of expressing a literally endless number of different ideas. How do we manage it--so effortlessly that we scarcely ever stop to think about it? In Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language, a look at the simple concepts that we use to devise works as complex as love sonnets and tax laws, renowned neuroscientist and linguist Steven Pinker shows us how. The latest linguistic research suggests that each of us stores a limited (though large) number of words and word-parts in memory and manipulates them with a much smaller number of rules to produce every writing and utterance, and Pinker explains every step of the way with engaging good humor.
Pinker's enthusiasm for the subject infects the reader, particularly as he emphasizes the relation between how we communicate and how we think. What does it mean that a small child who has never heard the word wug can tell a researcher that when one wug meets another, there are two wugs? Some rule must be telling the child that English plurals end in -s, which also explains mistakes like mouses. Is our communication linked inextricably with our thinking? Pinker says yes, and it's hard to disagree. Words and Rules is an excellent introduction to and overview of current thinking about language, and will greatly reward the careful reader with new ways of thinking about how we think, talk, and write. --Rob Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
MIT linguist Pinker builds on his previous successes (How the Mind Works; The Language Instinct) with another book explaining how we learn and deploy word, phrase and utterance. Some linguists (notably Noam Chomsky) have argued that everything in speech comes from hidden, hard-wired rules. Others (notably some computer scientists) claim that we learn language by association, picking up raw data first. Pinker argues that our brains exhibit both kinds of thought, and that we can see them both in English verbs: rule application ("combination") governs regular verbs, memory ("lookup") handles irregulars. The interplay of the two characterizes all language, perhaps all thought. Each of Pinker's 10 chapters takes up a different field of research, but all 10 concern regular and irregular forms of words. Pinker shows what scientists learn from children's speech errors (My brother got sick and pukeded); from survey questions (What do you call more than one wug?); from similar rules in varying languages (English, German and Arapesh); from theoretical models and their failings and from brain disorders like jargon anomia (whose victims use complex sentences, but say things like "nose cone" when they mean "phone call"). Sometimes Pinker explains linguists' current consensus; at other times, he makes a case for his own theoretical school. His previous books have been accused of excessive ambition; here he largely sticks to his own fields. The result, with its crisp prose and neat analogies, makes required reading for anyone interested in cognition and language. (Oct.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Not exactly the most interesting or difficult topic, so there should be no reason for a long-winded narrative. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Alexander
Looking at regular and irregular verbs (and occasionally at regular and irregular nouns) Steven Pinker concludes that the irregular ones are memorized, in a way that... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Clinton Anderson
this book was published in 2011 however William Safire died in 2009 how can he give his endorsement in 2011 this is ridiculous!Published 17 months ago by Chong Beng Lim
I chose this book because it was recommended by my psychology professor and I loved it! I would defiantly recommend it to anyone who is interested in language and psychology. Read morePublished 23 months ago by Robert Munoz
This is a pedantic exercise in the mechanics of language and doesn't use Dr. Pinker's abilities in the way I have come to expect.Published on April 5, 2013 by Herbert W. Fawcett
I'm exploring linguistics a bit in support of a novel that's currently taking shape on my laptop, so I've been reading Pinker. Read morePublished on February 8, 2013 by Cecil Bothwell
Great book. It's not as much of a quick read as I had hoped but it was worth the money.Published on January 7, 2013 by Andrew Cotton
As many other's have pointed out, this book has been inappropriately marketed. Having some background in neuroscience and some possible future work in the linguistics field, I had... Read morePublished on June 4, 2011 by Christopher G. Loverich
I read this with great interest as its core subject is of intense interest to me: where grammar rules come from, how they change, and what purpose they serve. Read morePublished on October 29, 2010 by Caraculiambro