Publications

2002
Pinker, S. (2002). Eulogy: Stephen Jay Gould. Time.
Pinker, S. (2002). Sibling Rivalry: Why the nature/nurture debate won't go away. Boston Globe , D1. PDF
Berent, I., Pinker, S., & Shimron, J. (2002). The nature of regularity and irregularity: Evidence from Hebrew nominal inflection. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research , 31 (5), 459-502.Abstract

Most evidence for the role of regular inflection as a default operation comes from languages that confound the morphological properties of regular and irregular forms with their phonological characteristics. For instance, regular plurals tend to faithfully preserve the base’s phonology (e.g., rat-rats), whereas irregular nouns tend to alter it (e.g., mouse- mice). The distinction between regular and irregular inflection may thus be an epiphenomenon of phonological faithfulness. In Hebrew noun inflection, however, morphological regularity and phonological faithfulness can be distinguished: Nouns whose stems change in the plural may take either a regular or an irregular suffix, and nouns whose stems are preserved in the plural may take either a regular or an irregular suffix. We use this dissociation to examine two hallmarks of default inflection: its lack of dependence on analogies from similar regular nouns, and its application to nonroots such as names. We show that these hallmarks of regularity may be found whether or not the plural form preserves the stem faithfully: People apply the regular suffix to novel nouns that don’t resemble existing nouns, and to names that sound like irregular nouns, regardless of whether the stem is ordinarily preserved in the plural of that family of nouns. Moreover, when they pluralize names (e.g., the Barak-Barakim), they do not apply the stem changes that are found in their homophonous nouns (e.g., barak-brakim “lightning”), replicating an effect found in English and German. These findings show that the distinction between regular and irregular phenomena cannot be reduced to differences in the kinds of phonological changes associated with those phenomena in English. Instead, regularity and irregularity must be distinguished in terms of the kinds of mental computations that effect them: symbolic operations versus memorized idiosyncrasies. A corollary is that complex words are not generally dichotomizable as “regular” or “irregular”; different aspects of a word may be regular or irregular depending on whether they violate the rule for that aspect and hence must be stored in memory.

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Pinker, S., & Ullman, M. (2002). The past and future of the past tense. Trends in Cognitive Science , 6 (11), 456-463.Abstract
What is the interaction between storage and computation in language processing? What is the psychological status of grammatical rules? What are the relative strengths of connectionist and symbolic models of cognition? How are the components of language implemented in the brain? The English past tense has served as an arena for debates on these issues. We defend the theory that irregular past-tense forms are stored in the lexicon, a division of declarative memory, whereas regular forms can be computed by a concatenation rule, which requires the procedural system. Irregulars have the psychological, linguistic and neuropsychological signatures of lexical memory, whereas regulars often have the signatures of grammatical processing. Furthermore, because regular inflection is rule-driven, speakers can apply it whenever memory fails.
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The Blank Slate
Pinker, S. (2002). The Blank Slate . New York, NY: Viking.Abstract

"Sweeping, erudite, sharply argued, and fun to read...
also highly persuasive." —Michael Lemonick, Time

Our conceptions of human nature affect every aspect of our lives, from the way we raise our children to the political movements we embrace. Yet just as science is bringing us into a golden age of understanding human nature, many people are hostile to the very idea. They fear that discoveries about innate patterns of thinking and feeling may be used to justify inequality, to subvert social change, to dissolve personal responsibility, and to strip life of meaning and purpose.  In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker, bestselling author of The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works, explores the idea of human nature and its moral, emotional, and political colorings. He shows how many intellectuals have denied the existence of human nature by embracing three linked dogmas: The Blank Slate (the mind has no innate traits), The Noble Savage (people are born good and corrupted by society), and The Ghost in the Machine (each of us has a soul that makes choices free from biology). Each dogma carries a moral burden, so their defenders have engaged in the desperate tactics to discredit the scientists who are now challenging them.  Pinker tries to inject calm and rationality into these debates by showing that equality, progress, responsibility, and purpose have nothing to fear from discoveries about rich human nature. He disarms even the most menacing threats with clear thinking, common sense, and pertinent facts from science and history. Despite its popularity among intellectuals during much of the twentieth century, he argues, the doctrine of the Blank Slate may have done more harm than good. It denies our common humanity and our individual preferences, replaces hardheaded analyses of social problems with feel-good slogans, and distorts our understanding of government, violence, parenting, and the arts.

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2001
Pinker, S. (2001). Talk of Genetics and Vice-Versa. Nature. PDF
2000
(2000). The United States Is Not an Apocalyptic Wasteland, Explains Steven Pinker.
(2000). Five Questions for Steven Pinker.
Pinker, S. (2000). Survival of the Clearest. Nature , 404, 441-442.Abstract

There are no fossils to show how language evolved. But evolutionary game theory is revealing how some of the defining features of human language could have been shaped by natural selection.

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Pinker, S. (2000). All About Evil. New York Times .
Pinker, S. (2000). Decoding the candidate. New York Times.
Pinker, S. (2000). The Irregular Verbs. Landfall.
Pinker, S. (2000). Life in the Fourth Millennium. Technology Review.
Pinker, S. (2000). Will the Mind Figure out How the Brain Works?. Time.Abstract

Understanding how neurons operate is one thing; understanding how they make us the conscious beings we are is another matter.

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1999
(1999). Steven Pinker receives the 2016 William James Fellow Award from the Association for Psychological Science.
(1999). Steven Pinker elected to National Academy of Sciences.
Pinker, S. (1999). How Much Art Can the Brain Take?. The Independent .Abstract

This article is adapted from How the Mind Works (Penguin paperback, 1999).

Pinker, S. (1999). The Seven Wonders of the World Convocation Address at McGill University.
Pinker, S. (1999). His Brain Measured Up. New York Times. Publisher's Version
Pinker, S. (1999). Horton Heared a Who!. Time , 86.Abstract
What the slips of children tell us about language, history and the human mind.
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