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Wow - I was not expecting this book to offer so much insight on the human mind.
The book answers a fairly mundane question: do regular and irregular verbs use different brain systems? He says yes. Irregular verbs, such as "go, went, gone" are memorized, like in a list. Regular verbs, such as "walk, walked, walked," are assembled using a rule—add -ed.
It's not mundane, however, because the regular-irrugular split turns out to be just an example of two systems that are present in everything we do: one works by memorization and association, and one works by abstract rules. Anytime we want to categorize anything (which occurs in essentially any debate or discussion of any kind) we need to understand which system our words are based on. The consequences for how we think about meaning could be far reaching.
You need to slog through a few chapters before this book picks up, so don't let yourself get turned away. Once he starts revealing the hidden reasons behind why we say "mice trap" but not "rats trap" and many other surprises in our everyday speech, it's pretty darn fascinating.
I really appreciate that he gets into neuroscience in the later chapters and doesn't treat linguistics as a humanities fundamentally incompatible with other sciences.
If you're a word or language nerd, you'll love this. If you're just interested in how the human mind works, you might be pleasantly surprised how much understanding human grammar can teach you.
12 of 13 people found this review helpful
and fantastic performance. I enjoyed it and learned a lot. Very insightful and accessible analysis of how our minds acquire and use language as well as the nature of language in general. Loved it.
3 of 4 people found this review helpful