Publications

2003
Pinker, S. (2003). Are Your Genes to Blame?. Time.
Pinker, S. (2003). Better Babies? Why genetic enhancement is too unlikely to worry about. Boston Globe.
Pinker, S. (2003). How To Get Inside a Student's Head. New York Times.
Pinker, S. (2003). Language as an adaptation to the cognitive niche. In S. Kirby & M. Christiansen (Ed.), Language evolution: States of the Art (pp. 16-37) . New York, Oxford University Press.Abstract
This chapter outlines the theory (first explicitly defended by Pinker and Bloom 1990), that the human language faculty is a complex biological adaptation that evolved by natural selection for communication in a knowledge- using, socially interdependent lifestyle. This claim might seem to be any- one’s first guess about the evolutionary status of language, and the default prediction from a Darwinian perspective on human psychological abilities. But the theory has proved to be controversial, as shown by the commentaries in Pinker and Bloom (1990) and the numerous debates on language evolution since then (Fitch 2002; Hurford et al. 1998). In the chapter I will discuss the design of the language faculty, the theory that language is an adaptation, alternatives to the theory, an examination of what language might an adaptation for, and how the theory is being tested by new kinds of analyses and evidence.
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2002
Pinker, S. (2002). Debating Human Happiness with Martin Seligman and Robert Wright. Slate .
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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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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