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Words and Rules

Here, Pinker explains the mysteries of language by examining a single phenomenon, regular and irregular verbs, from a dozen vantage points. As the story unfolds, 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. Pinker aims to makie sense of all these phenomena, with the help of a single idea: that the essence of language is a mental dictionary of memorized words, and a mental grammar of creative rules.
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Table of Contents

1. The Infinite Library 2. Dissection by Linguistics 3. Broken Telephone 4. In Single Combat 5. Word Nerds 6. Of Mice and Men 7. Kids Say the Darnedest Things 8. The Horrors of the German Language 9. The Black Box 10. A Digital Mind in an Analog World

About the Author

Steven Pinker, a native of Montreal, studied experimental psychology at McGill University and Harvard University. He is a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Pinker conducts research on languages and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time, and The New Republic, and is the author of eight books, including The Language Instinct (1994), How the Mind Works (1997), The Blank Slate (2002), The Stuff of Thought (2007), and most recently The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011).


"A fascinating voyage of discovery."--Sunday Telegraph "Not only does Pinker breathe life into the topic, he makes the reading breathtakingly exciting."--Montreal Gazette "An intellectual joyride."--Globe and Mail "Compelling and revelatory."--Guardian "the book provides a scholarly, persuasive, enjoyable, and eminently readable account of important language phenomena."--Nature "[An excellent work of popular science."--Thomas Nagel, The New Republic

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