Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder
As Leonard noted, last night I went to the Pinker…
Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2002 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.
As Leonard noted, last night I went to the Pinker lecture. Steven Pinker said, to paraphrase, "here's my hypothesis of how our memory of words and our computation using rules gets us to speak the way we do, and here's data showing that I'm right." (His new book: Words and Rules. McWhorter recommends it, and him.)
Funny stuff: His PowerPoint slides on "advantages of words" and "advantages of grammar" seemed like advertisements. "And for only five easy payments of $19.95..."
Also, in explaining all of English's borrowed words, he used the phrase "1066 and all that," which cracked me up.
Leonard was there, and Nathaniel and a few other people I know were there, and Adam and his friend Josh (whom I hadn't met before) were also there, and we talked after the lecture. Adam was amusingly cranky about the holes in Pinker's argument. Josh seemed impressed with me, and I'm glad. Sometimes I forget how important it is to me that I keep impressing people.
I got Pinker's autograph.