Summary of Steven Pinker's (1999) book "Words and Rules"

Aim: to illuminate the nature of language and mind by focusing on the study of regular and irregular verbs.


  1. The Infinite Library - generative grammars and the distinction between lexicon and grammar
  2. Dissection by Linguistics - all about regular verbs
  3. Broken Telephone - all about irregular verbs
  4. In Single Combat - Chomsky and Halle versus Rumelhart and McClelland
  5. Word Nerds - evidence from psycholinguistics - language production and recognition
  6. Of Mice and Men - evidence from neologisms
  7. Kids say the Darnedest Things - evidence form language acquisition
  8. The Horrors of the German Language - evidence from other languages
  9. The Black Box - all about brains
  10. A Digital Mind in an Analog World - how this all links up to other mental faculties

I think this book is great. If it were written in textbook-style rather than popular-science-style, it would be perfect. It covers a lot of stuff - associative memory, cross-modal priming, rationalism versus empiricism, naturalism versus conventionalism, brain scans, connectionism versus symbolic processing, and on and on. Better still, it really focuses on the details, which is great for this course - showing students that something simple that they already know unconsciously offers a huge amount of potential for conscious study.

-- MarkMcConville - 02 Sep 2010

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Topic revision: r1 - 02 Sep 2010 - 09:34:55 - MarkMcConville
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