Books

<p>The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century</p>
Pinker, S. (2014).

The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century

. New York: Penguin.Abstract
“A smart, funny, argumentative, authoritative and practical new book. Reading it will improve anyone’s style.”—Robert Fulford, The National Post.  Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Do people write badly on purpose, to bamboozle their readers with highfalutin gobbledygook? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Should we bring back the lost art of diagramming sentences? Have dictionaries abandoned their responsibility to safeguard correct usage? Do the kids today even care about good writing? Why should any of us care? In this entertaining and instructive book, the bestselling cognitive scientist, linguist, and writer Steven Pinker rethinks the usage guide for the 21st century. Rather than moaning about the decline of the language, carping over pet peeves, or recycling spurious edicts from the rulebooks of a century ago, he applies insights from the sciences of language and mind to the challenge of crafting clear, coherent, and stylish prose. Don’t blame the Internet, he says, or the kids today; good writing has always been hard. It begins with savoring the good prose of others. It requires an act of imagination: maintaining the illusion that one is directing a reader’s gaze to something in the world. A writer must overcome the Curse of Knowledge—the difficulty we all have in imagining what it’s like not to know something we know. Skillful writers must be sensitive to the ways in which syntax converts a tangled web of ideas into a linear string of words. They must weave their prose into a coherent whole, with one sentence flowing into the next. And they must negotiate the rules of correct usage, distinguishing the rules that enhance clarity and grace from the myths and superstitions (and thus should not be afraid to boldly split their infinitives).     Filled with examples of great and gruesome modern prose, and avoiding the scolding tone and Spartan tastes of the classic manuals, Pinker shows how the art of writing can be a form of pleasurable mastery and a fascinating intellectual topic in its own right. The Sense of Style is for writers of all kinds, and for readers who are interested in letters and literature and curious about the ways in which the sciences of mind can illuminate how language works at its best.
Lexical and Conceptual Semantics
Pinker, S., & Levin, B. (1991). Lexical and Conceptual Semantics. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Abstract
How are words represented in the mind and woven into sentences? How do children learn how to use words? Currently there is a tremendous resurgence of interest in lexical semantics. Word meanings have become increasingly important in linguistic theories because syntactic constructions are sensitive to the words they contain. In computational linguistics, new techniques are being applied to analyze words in texts, and machine-readable dictionaries are being used to build lexicons for natural language systems. These technologies provide large amounts of data and powerful data-analysis techniques to theoretical linguists, who can repay the favor to computer science by describing how one efficient lexical system, the human mind, represents word meanings. Lexical semantics provides crucial evidence to psychologists, too, about the innate stuff out of which concepts are made. Finally, it has become central to the study of child language acquisition. Infants are not born knowing a language, but they do have some understanding of the conceptual world that their parents describe in their speech. Since concepts are intimately tied to word meanings, knowledge of semantics might help children break into the rest of the language system. Lexical and Conceptual Semantics offers views from a variety of disciplines of these sophisticated new approaches to understanding the mental dictionary.
Connections and Symbols
Pinker, S., & Mehler, J. (1988). Connections and Symbols. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Abstract
Does intelligence result from the manipulation of structured symbolic expressions? Or is it the result of the activation of large networks of densely interconnected simple units? Connections and Symbols provides the first systematic analysis of the explosive new field of connectionism that is challenging the basic tenets of cognitive science. These lively discussions by Jerry A. Fodor, Zenon W. Pylyshyn, Steven Pinker, Alan Prince, Joel Lechter, and Thomas G. Bever raise issues that lie at the core of our understanding of how the mind works: Does connectionism offer a truly new scientific model or does it merely cloak the old notion of associationism as a central doctrine of learning and mental functioning? Which of the new empirical generalizations are sound and which are false? And which of the many ideas such as massively parallel processing, distributed representation, constraint satisfaction, and subsymbolic or microfeatural analyses belong together, and which are logically independent? Now that connectionism has arrived with full-blown models of psychological processes as diverse as Pavlovian conditioning, visual recognition, and language acquisition, the debate is on. Common themes emerge from all the contributors to Connections and Symbols: criticism of connectionist models applied to language or the parts of cognition employing language—like operations; and a focus on what it is about human cognition that supports the traditional physical symbol system hypothesis. While criticizing many aspects of connectionist models, the authors also identify aspects of cognition that could be explained by the connectionist models.
Visual Cognition
Pinker, S. (1986). Visual Cognition. Cambridge: A Bradford Book/The MIT Press.Abstract
How do we recognize objects? How do we reason about objects when they are absent and only in memory? How do we conceptualize the three dimensions of space? Do different people do these things in different ways? And where are these abilities located in the brain? During the past decade cognitive scientists have devised new experimental techniques; researchers in artificial intelligence have devised new ways of modeling cognitive processes on computers; neuropsychologists are testing new models of brain organization.. Many of these developments are represented in this collection of essays. The papers, though reporting work at the cutting edge of their fields, do not assume a highly technical background on the part of readers, and the volume begins with a tutorial introduction by the editor, making the book suitable for specialists and non-specialists alike.