Excerpts from reviews
—Mark Aronoff, New York Times Book Review, Nov. 28, 1999
—Jan Freeman, Boston Globe, Dec. 5, 1999
A deliciously erudite, if somewhat grainy, glass of Metamucil for the legion of
English speakers troubled by irregular verbs.
—William Safire, New York Times Magazine, Dec. 12, 1999
An intellectual joyride.
— Jack Chambers, The Globe and Mail, Dec. 13, 1999
[An] excellent work of popular science. Steven Pinker is a masterful explainer, a great
collector of amusing examples, and smart.
—Thomas Nagel, The New Republic, Jan. 23, 2000
Finding a reader-friendly
balance between humour, irreverence, and anally retentive scholarship, Pinker
unpacks a remarkable variety of facts associated with the distinction between
regular and irregular English words and their structure. ... The book provides
a scholarly, persuasive, enjoyable, and eminently readable account of important
—David Poeppel, Nature, 403, Jan. 27, 2000
Pinker succeeds in generating light rather than heat in a dispute that has been noted
for acrimony rather than insight. This is no mean achievement, but, as a bonus,
he extends the argument to cover the nature of the mind more generally ... It
seems initially implausible that meditating on the past tense of "sing" could enable one to derive
generalizations about how our mental categories "reflect the lawful categories of
the world," but Pinker has done it. Hats off.
—Neil Smith, Times Literary Supplement, February 18, 2000
With its crisp prose and neat analogies, [Words and Rules is] required reading
for anyone interested in cognition and language.
—Publishers Weekly, Oct. 13, 1999
Not only does Pinker breathe life into the topic, he makes the reading breathtakingly
—Howard Richler, The Montreal Gazette, Jan. 8, 2000
Words and Rules is a
demanding, full-length book about irregular verbs. Yet this description gives
little sense of its flavor and excitement. ... Written with characteristic
energy and enthusiasm, it sweeps across some pretty dry terrain but remains
gripping throughout. ... a fascinating survey of many key areas of linguistics.
—Matthew Reisz, Independent on Sunday, Nov. 14, 1999
Words And Rules effectively starts out as a book about regular and irregular verbs, which
sounds crushingly dull but is, in Pinker's hands, compelling and revelatory in
unlocking a crucial area of human psychology.
—Ed Douglas, The Guardian, Nov. 6, 1999
A fascinating voyage of discovery.
—Matt Ridley, Sunday Telegraph, Nov. 7, 1999
Pinker's impressive case for a hybrid theory is
sure to advance debate and acquaint lay readers with his subject matter.
Fans of his other popular books will find many of the same virtues in this
one. Pinker has a keen sense of humor,
guaranteed to elicit more chuckles than
groans, and an admirable ability to make difficult material accessible
and engaging. Pinker has a marvelous ability
to make each mundane idiosyncrasy of
speech into a riveting detective story.
—Jesse Prinz, Chicago Tribune, Nov. 21, 1999
Perhaps the chief pleasures of this book do not lie in his overall theories of language, as
much as in his delightful sense of humor and his individual explanations of how
the language works—and why. This book will be of interest to anyone
fascinated by language.
—Paul Williams, Christian Science Monitor, Oct. 28, 1999
Pinker demonstrates [his argument] with clarity, wit, and even the occasional belly laugh. ...
A finely balanced, easily accessible book that takes readers through a strongly
supported argument to the frontiers of science, for a glimpse into the mysteries
inside us and how they reflect our semi-regular world.
—Paul Rosenberg, Philadelphia City Paper, Nov. 19, 1999.
[Discussions] are offered not in dry academic prose, but through lucidly written and often
--Robert March, Boston Globe, Nov. 7, 1999
Despite the sometimes technical nature of the discussion ... the book is compulsively
readable. Pinker writes clearly and enthusiastically, enlivening his prose with
scintillating wordplay, helpful analogies and the occasional "Far Side"
Cartoon. ... Simultaneously amusing and enlightening, Words and Rules
demonstrates that Pinker amply deserves his reputation as the best popularizer
of linguistics writing today.
—Glenn Branch, New York City Search, Nov. 15, 1999
Pinker's argument is appealing, and Words and Rules brims with delightful data.
Word-lovers may find themselves skimming the book for clever bits.
—Sarah Richardson, Discover, February 2000
This is complicated stuff,
but Pinker is a fine popularizer. Perhaps he uses dry academic prose for his
research, but here he uses lucid and amusing examples ... He shows how
complicated these linguistic ideas are without stupefying the layman.
—The Times Arcadia (Columbus, MI), Dec. 29, 1999