Words And Rules: The Ingredients Of Languageby Steven Pinker
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/i>
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.
Meet the Author
- Boston, Massachusetts
- Date of Birth:
- September 18, 1954
- Place of Birth:
- Montreal, Canada
- B.A., McGill University, 1976; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1979
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I was in the language section of my local bookstore, and I saw this book on the shelf. I bought it and took it home. I read it cover to cover in a single night. This book is WONDERFUL. It starts out fairly dryly, giving a list of the irregular verbs of English (there are 180 of them) and their irregular past and past perfect forms. It groups them into categories according to the nature of their irregularity (spring-sprang-sprung vs. think-thought-thought, for example) and describes the linguistic evolution of them since the times of Anglo-Saxon (now referred to as Old English). To make the text more readable and light-hearted, Professor Hadbeen, a linguistic detective, is introduced. He explains some of what happened and makes occasional jokes. Prof. Hadbeen becomes more and more involved, however, and by the third chapter he's developed into a story of his own. He's investigating a murder mystery --- someone has killed the Duke of Donegone, heir to the throne of Iswasbeenia, and Prof. Hadbeen is now receiving anonymous letters indicating that he is to be the next victim. The book becomes a race against time as Hadbeen fights for his life and the protection of his beautiful girlfriend Andrea. The action comes to a climax in chapter eight, entitled 'The Horrors of the German Language' --- both a literary allusion to Mark Twain and a clever hint about the storyline. Naturally, I won't give away the ending, but I will say that I literally clung to the edge of my seat (incidentally, 'cling' is an irregular verb, with the past tense form being 'clung' instead of 'clinged'). After the story is over, Pinker tries to get back to the linguistic stuff, but I got bored with that and skipped to the end. Worth checking out, however, is the appendix entitled 'Glossary', which is actually a hilarious, biting commentary on North American social values and politics. I would also recommend the section 'Index', which contains a delicious recipe for buttermilk pancakes.
From a guy that has difficulty spelling in the first place. This is a great book. It was fun to read. The exploration of the rule and why the rules was fun and well presented.