Publications

2009
Sahin, N. T., Pinker, S., Cash, S. S., Schomer, D., & Halgren, E. (2009).

Sequential Processing of Lexical, Grammatical, and Phonological Information Within Broca’s Area

. Science, 326, , , 326(5951), 445-449.Abstract
Words, grammar, and phonology are linguistically distinct, yet their neural substrates are difficult to distinguish in macroscopic brain regions. We investigated whether they can be separated in time and space at the circuit level using intracranial electrophysiology (ICE), namely by recording local field potentials from populations of neurons using electrodes implanted in language-related brain regions while people read words verbatim or grammatically inflected them (present/past or singular/plural). Neighboring probes within Broca’s area revealed distinct neuronal activity for lexical (~200 milliseconds), grammatical (~320 milliseconds), and phonological (~450 milliseconds) processing, identically for nouns and verbs, in a region activated in the same patients and task in functional magnetic resonance imaging. This suggests that a linguistic processing sequence predicted on computational grounds is implemented in the brain in fine-grained spatiotemporally patterned activity.
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2008
Pinker, S. (2008). Everything You Heard is Wrong. New York Times, , A19. presented at the 10/3/2008 . Publisher's Version
Pinker, S. (2008). Crazy Love. Time, . Publisher's Version
Pinker, S. (2008). The Moral Instinct. New York Times Sunday Magazine, . Publisher's Version
Pinker, S. (2008). The Stupidity of Dignity. The New Republic, . Publisher's Version
Pinker, S. (2008). On My Mind: Steven Pinker on Swearing and Violence. Seed, . Publisher's Version
Pinker, S. (2008). A Life in Books. Newsweek, . Publisher's Version
Pinker, S. (2008). High Five: My Five Favorite Cartoon Characters. Forbes, .
Pinker, S. (2008).

Freedom's Curse: Why Washington's Crusade Against Swearing on the Airwaves is F*cked Up

. The Atlantic, , 4-5. Website
Pinker, S. (2008).

Steven Pinker on Al Bregman

. New York Times Magazine, . Website
Berent, I., & Pinker, S. (2008). Compound formation is constrained by morphology: A reply to Seidenberg, MacDonald, & Haskell. The Mental Lexicon, , 3(2), 176-187.Abstract
Why do compounds containing regular plurals, such as rats-infested, sound so much worse than corresponding compounds containing irregular plurals, such as mice-infested? Berent and Pinker (2007) reported five experiments showing that this theoretically important effect hinges on the morphological structure of the plurals, not their phonological properties, as had been claimed by Haskell, MacDonald, and Seidenberg (2003). In this note we reply to a critique by these authors. We show that the connectionist model they invoke to explain the data has nothing to do with compounding but exploits fortuitous properties of adjectives, and that our experimental results disconfirm explicit predictions the authors had made. We also present new analyses which answer the authors’ methodological objections. We conclude that the interaction of compounding with regularity is a robust effect, unconfounded with phonology or semantics.
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Pinker, S., Nowak, M. A., & Lee, J. J. (2008).

The logic of indirect speech

. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, , 105(3), 833-838.Abstract
When people speak, they often insinuate their intent indirectly rather than stating it as a bald proposition. Examples include sexual come-ons, veiled threats, polite requests, and concealed bribes. We propose a three-part theory of indirect speech, based on the idea that human communication involves a mixture of cooperation and conflict. First, indirect requests allow for plausible deniability, in which a cooperative listener can accept the request, but an uncooperative one cannot react adversarially to it. This intuition is sup- ported by a game-theoretic model that predicts the costs and benefits to a speaker of direct and indirect requests. Second, language has two functions: to convey information and to negotiate the type of relationship holding between speaker and hearer (in particu- lar, dominance, communality, or reciprocity). The emotional costs of a mismatch in the assumed relationship type can create a need for plausible deniability and, thereby, select for indirectness even when there are no tangible costs. Third, people perceive language as a digital medium, which allows a sentence to generate common knowledge, to propagate a message with high fidelity, and to serve as a reference point in coordination games. This feature makes an indirect request qualitatively different from a direct one even when the speaker and listener can infer each other’s intentions with high confidence.
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2007
Pinker, S. (2007). How Do We Come Up with Words?. The Los Angeles Times, . presented at the 09/30/2007.
Pinker, S. (2007). In Defense of Dangerous Ideas. Chicago Sun-Times, . presented at the 07/15/2007. PDF
Pinker, S. (2007). Why We Love Sunsets (and Other Cliches). Popular Photography, . PDF
Pinker, S. (2007). Words Don't Mean What They Mean. Time, . Publisher's Version
Pinker, S. (2007). What the F***. The New Republic, . Publisher's Version
Pinker, S. (2007). My week: Steven Pinker. The Observer, . Publisher's Version
Pinker, S. (2007). Dating, Swearing, Sex and Language: A Conversation with Questions between Steven Pinker and Ian McEwan. Areté: The Arts Tri-Quarterly, 24, Winter 2007, , 24, 81-100. PDF
Pinker, S. (2007).

A History of Violence

. The New Republic, . Website