Who other than MIT scientist Steven Pinker could explore a single linguistic phenomenon - the use of irregular verbs - from the vantage points of psychology, biology, history, philosophy, linguistics, and child development?In Words and Rules , Pinker answers questions about the miraculous human ability called language and does it in the gripping, witty style of his other bestsellers. As the stories unfold, the reader is immersed in the evolution of the English language over the centuries, the theories of Noam Chomsky and his critics, the simulation of neural networks on computers, the illuminating errors of children as they begin to speak, the tragic loss of language from neurological disease, and more illustrations using humorous wordplay than anyone would have thought possible. Pinker makes sense of all these phenomena with the help of a single powerful idea: that the essence of language is a mental dictionary of memorized words and a mental grammar of creative rules.Pinker is well known for his skills of explaining the art and science of language. His bestselling book How the Mind Works was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and was the #1 bestselling book for amazon.com in 1997. His other bestseller The Language Instinct was named one of the Ten Best Books of 1994 by The New York Times Book Review and nominated for the William James Book Award by the American Psychological Association.
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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 LightnerFrom the Back Cover:
How does language work? How do we learn to speak? Why do languages change? Why do they have so many quirks? What does language reveal about the mind?
Steven Pinker explores the mysteries of language in this original and hugely entertaining book. Pinker uses a deceptively simple phenomenon—regular and irregular verbs—to illuminate an astonishing array of topics: the history of languages, what we can learn from children's grammatical mistakes, the genetic and neurobiological underpinnings of language, and some of the major themes in Western philosophy. The key idea—that language comprises a mental dictionary of memorized words and a mental grammar of creative rules—extends beyond language, offering insight into the nature of thinking. For fans of The Language Instinct and The Stuff of Thought, here is another cornucopia of ideas about language and mind.
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