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Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language…

Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language (1999)

by Steven Pinker

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Pinker takes an in-depth look at English irregular verbs as a starting point to explore how our linguistic abilities are made up of words and rules. He uses evidence from the way children acquire regular and irregular forms, the way irregularities work in other languages from German to French to Arabic to Chinese, and the language problems of people with neurological dam, age to generalise his approach to the way our minds work in general, not just with regard to language.

Fascinating, if a little heavy going in places. I don't know enough to be able to judge whether he's right or where his approach is open to informed criticism, but it certainly seems convincing. ( )
  Robertgreaves | May 23, 2016 |
Easy at times; rough at times. Definitely a better read than a lot of other popular science books but still difficult as far as understanding the minuteness of grammatical detail involved. In the end, Pinker provides a wonderful and convincing new perspective on human thought and language. A novel read. ( )
  TJWilson | Mar 29, 2013 |
(Alistair) Here's the next one in my non-fiction reading series, which I added to my list after enjoying The Stuff of Thought so much. As you can imagine, I recommend it to a fairly similar group of people as those to whom I recommended that book.

It doesn't cover nearly so much territory as The Stuff of Thought, per se, but looks in much greater depth at just one particular aspect of language, regular and irregular verbs and how they got that way, and in so doing covers a very large amount of territory in linguistics and cognitive science both.

And so, therefore, highly recommended to dabblers in, or the curious about, either or both of those.

( http://weblog.siliconcerebrate.com/cerebrate/2009/06/mass_booklogging.html ) ( )
  libraryofus | Jan 14, 2010 |
okay, not as bloated as his other stuff. Nothing very profound, however, and donn't think he's the last word on everything linguistic. He's not ( )
  echaika | Sep 29, 2009 |
Not Read
  wlchui | Aug 2, 2009 |
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This book tries to illuminate the nature of language and mind by choosing a single phenomenon and examining it from every angle imaginable. (Preface)
Language comes so naturally to us that it is easy to forget what a strange and miraculous gift it is.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060958405, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:30 -0400)

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"In Words and Rules, Pinker explains the profound mysteries of language by picking a deceptively single phenomenon and examining it from every angle. The phenomenon - regular and irregular verbs - connects an astonishing array of topics in the sciences and humanities: the history of languages; the theories of Noam Chomsky and his critics; the attempts to simulate language using computer simulations of neural networks; the illuminating errors of children as they begin to speak; the nature of human concepts; the peculiarities of the English language; major ideas in the history of Western philosophy; the latest techniques in identifying genes and imaging the living brain."--Jacket.… (more)

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