Steven Pinker - the Language Instinct

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Steven Pinker : The Language Instinct Chapter Words, Words, Words from Pinker‘s Language Instinct deals with the mental dictionary of language and shows the variety and wondrousness as well as curiosity of creating new words in English. Although English as a synthetic language could be seen as morphologically limited, there are plenty of different word-forming processes which make the number of possible English words infinite. However there are certain rules to be followed. Words have their own internal structure based on small pieces they are made of. These pieces are called morphemes and they function as abstract, mental, meaning carriyng symbols in our mind. Because of them we can derive new words by applying appropriate rules to certain word forms without even knowing their actual meaning. (If I coin a meaningless noun flend, I know I can talk about two flends according to morphological rule of making plural by adding morpheme „-s“ to the end of a noun.) Morphological units responsible for all word forming processes are word stems, lexical bases of words. Along with stems, we also distinguish word roots, which are the very atomic lexical parts of words and which can be formed into stems by adding special root suffixes, not randomly though. Many of these suffixes were formed after Renaissance using rules from languages of their origin, so that their structure can be slightly different. Another case of irregularity can be found in the plural of some families of nouns and in the form of past tense of some verbs. The reason for this is the ancient Proto-Indo-European rule, according to which past forms of verbs were made by replacing one vowel for another. In these cases, we have to memorize the forms separately. There is an interesting question concerning irregularity of complex words. Why complex words like low-life’s (people) do not carry the

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