Tag: Steven Pinker

September 8, 2016

To Boldly Split Infinitives

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the first airing of Star Trek, so I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about split infinitives. (So did Merriam-Webster, which beat me to the punch.) If you’re unfamiliar with split infinitives or have thankfully managed to forget what they are since your high school days, it’s […]

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Grammar, Usage 8 Replies to “To Boldly Split Infinitives”
November 20, 2014

Book Review: The Sense of Style

Full disclosure: I received an advance review copy of this book from the publisher, Viking. I was intrigued when I first heard that Steven Pinker, the linguist and cognitive scientist, was writing a book on style. I’ve really enjoyed some of his other books, such as The Stuff of Thought, but wasn’t this the guy […]

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Book Reviews 0 Replies to “Book Review: The Sense of Style
June 4, 2012

What Descriptivism Is and Isn’t

A few weeks ago, the New Yorker published what is nominally a review of Henry Hitchings’ book The Language Wars (which I still have not read but have been meaning to) but which was really more of a thinly veiled attack on what its author, Joan Acocella, sees as the moral and intellectual failings of […]

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism 9 Replies to “What Descriptivism Is and Isn’t”
December 6, 2011

Distinctions, Useful and Otherwise

In a recent New York Times video interview, Steven Pinker touched on the topic of language change, saying, “I think that we do sometimes lose distinctions that it would be nice to preserve—disinterested to mean ‘impartial’ as opposed to ‘bored’, for example.” He goes on to make the point that language does not degenerate, because […]

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Usage, Words 10 Replies to “Distinctions, Useful and Otherwise”
October 17, 2011

They and the Gender-Neutral Pronoun Dilemma

A few weeks ago, as a submission for my topic contest, Bob Scopatz suggested I tackle the issue of gender-neutral pronouns in English. In his comment he said, “I dislike alternating between ‘he’ and ‘she’. I despise all variants of ‘he/she’, ‘s/he’, etc. I know that I should not use ‘they’, but it feels closest […]

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Usage, Words 22 Replies to “They and the Gender-Neutral Pronoun Dilemma”
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