English speakers disfavor compounds containing regular plurals compared to irregular ones. Haskell, MacDonald and Seidenberg (2003) attribute this phenomenon to the rarity of compounds containing words with the phonological properties of regular plurals. Five experiments test this proposal. Experiment 1 demonstrated that novel regular plurals (e.g., loonks-eater) are disliked in compounds compared to irregular plurals with illicit (hence less frequent) phonological patterns (e.g., leevk-eater, plural of loovk). Experiments 2–3 found that people show no dispreference for compounds containing nouns that merely sound like regular plurals (e.g., hose-installer vs. pipe-installer). Experiments 4–5 showed a robust effect of morphological regularity when phonological familiar- ity was controlled: Compounds containing regular plural nonwords (e.g., gleeks- hunter, plural of gleek) were disfavored relative to irregular, phonologically-iden- tical, plurals (e.g., breex-container, plural of broox). The dispreference for regular plurals inside compounds thus hinges on the morphological distinction between irregular and regular forms and it is irreducible to phonological familiarity.
This paper proposes a new analysis of indirect speech in the framework of game theory, social psychology, and evolutionary psychology. It builds on the theory of Grice, which tries to ground indirect speech in pure rationality (the demands of e‰cient communication between two cooperating agents) and on the Politeness Theory of Brown and Levinson, who proposed that people cooperate not just in exchanging data but in saving face (both the speaker’s and the hearer’s). I suggest that these theories need to be supple- mented because they assume that people in conversation always cooperate. A reflection on how a pair of talkers may have goals that conflict as well as coincide requires an examination of the game-theoretic logic of plausible denial, both in legal contexts, where people’s words may be held against them, and in everyday life, where the sanctions are social rather than judi- cial. This in turn requires a theory of the distinct kinds of relationships that make up human social life, a consideration of a new role for common knowledge in the use of indirect speech, and ultimately the paradox of ra- tional ignorance, where we choose not to know something relevant to our interests.
"A display of fiercely intricate intelligence and nobody with the least interest in language should miss reading it."-The Times (London)
The Stuff of Thought is a revelation. In this exhilarating new book, Steven Pinker analyzes how our words relate to thoughts and to the world around us and reveals what this tells us about ourselves. How does a mind that evolved to think about rocks and plants and enemies think about love and physics and democracy? Why do we threaten and bribe and seduce in such elaborate, often comical ways? How can a choice of metaphors start a war, impeach a president, or win an election? Why do people impose taboos on topics like sex, excretion, and the divine? What does the peculiar syntax of swearing (just what does the "fuck" in "fuck you" actually mean?) tell us about ourselves? Why do some names thrive while others fall out of circulation? How do we control the amount of information that we absorb? And what good does this actually do us? Pinker answers all these questions and many, many more. He shows us that language really can tell us unexpected and fascinating things about ourselves.