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Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language Paperback – Bargain Price, October 24, 2000
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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.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Pinker believes that the brain's representation of language is rule based - morphology (such as adding -s to a noun to make it plural or -ed to a verb to make it past tense) occurs because a system in the brain applies a rule during language production. During the past twenty years or so, many cognitive scientists have begun to think that perhaps this type of morphology is not rule based at all, but instead occurs because of the specific pattern of connections in the brain. The goal of this book is to convince the reader that connectionism is wrong, and a rule based system is correct. To do this, he talks about irregular verbs; their etymology bastardization by children, idiosyncrasies, and production by non-typical populations. I never thought that irregular verbs and oddly plauralized nouns could be interesting. I was right. This topic is so much more esoteric than his other books, that even his entertaining examples could not overcome either my skepticism or my boredom. After a while you just want to hear something different. Pinker is not reporting a phenomena, and evenhandedly evaluating various explanatory theories; he is presenting one view to be dismantled, and another to be exalted as correct.Read more ›
Pinker has a knack for teasing apart all the different threads that make up a hugely complex subject, exploring each one with arguments and data from different academic currents, and then tying them up again so the reader can form a much better picture of the whole. And that's exactly what he does in this flawlessly well-written book.
The only problem with Words and Rules is its packaging: it's marketed as a popular science book for the general public, but unlike The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works, it can probably only be properly appreciated by either serious "language hobbyists" or linguists (I am both).
If you don't have a fairly good background, or at least a serious interest, in linguistics, you'll probably find this book too dense (at any rate, it's definitely not "light reading"). If you're a linguist (pure or applied), here's another real gem from Steven Pinker.
I always wondered why the verbs we most frequently use are so ridiculously irregular. Why not "go - goed - goed"? Wouldn't that be easier? Pinker goes (why "goes"?) through many irregular verbs and explains in full detail where the funky endings come from - it turns out that most of the endings come from old or ancient sources. This part is a little bit dull to read if you're not really thrilled by all the subtleties but it is still very nice to see why the most commonly used verbs are irregular.
PS: I fear having read though all the wrong examples Pinker gives scrod up my knowledge of irregular verbs somewhat. I will ask my friends to blame it on him. ;-)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a 400-page book about regular and irregular verbs. The subject is dealt with clarity and depth. So, yeah, serious stuff.Published 5 months ago by Sheng
One of my favorite books.
If you like to read books which are somewhere along the spectrum between a textbook and a popular science book, this is a great read for you. Read more
Not exactly the most interesting or difficult topic, so there should be no reason for a long-winded narrative. Read morePublished 13 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 23 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 on April 2, 2014 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 on October 9, 2013 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