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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

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  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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Dave Kleinschmidt

There's a paper in Psychological Review by Ericsson and Krampe ("The role of deliberate practice in the acquisition of expert performance." 1993) From the abstract:

"In most domains of expertise, individuals begin in their childhood a regimen of effortful activities (deliberate practice) designed to optimize improvement. Individual differences, even among elite performers, are closely related to assessed amounts of deliberate practice. Many characteristics once believed to reflect innate talent are actually the result of intense practice extended for a minimum of 10 yrs."

If you have access to Psych. Review online, you can read the abstract and paper at

I play a woodwind instrument, and on a much smaller scale, I find that the sort of deliberate practice described is by far the most effective way of both learning difficult technical passages and of perfecting others. By practicing a passage a few notes at a time for a number of days, it becomes magically smoother and easier to play, and as difficult as it is to maintain that kind of focus, I've done it enough times to know that it pays off dramatically.


But of course children don't deliberately practice language, at least not in the sense one deliberately practices a musical instrument.

It will be helpful at some point to actually spell-out the things that Chomskyan linguists claim are actually universal and specific to human language structure, at least the less controversial ones. I have found it is a common misconception that Chomskyans want to reduce all of language to a system of formal rules or that we believe every aspect of language is innately programmed. Neither of those things is near the truth, of course. I've found its almost useless to talk generally about the plausibility of innate linguistic knowledge. One has to instead talk about specific pieces of knowledge and whether or not they could plausibly be innate.


One more thing: the claim for a 'deep structure' for moral law has recently been clarified and greatly expanded on in Marc Hauser's new book, which I haven't read yet. But I talk about it briefly on my blog here:

David Rose

Re "That Swahili verb and its rough English translation both include a subject-object relationship. Indeed, every language in the world includes that relationship".
Verb, subject and object are terms deriving from ancient Greek linguistics, denoting formal elements of Greek sentences, the basis of European linguistics for 2,500 years. A perspective that is less narrowly constrained by tradition is to say that all languages seem to construe experience in terms of activities involving processes, people, things, places and qualities, and then to ask how different languages do so. Notice the word ‘construe’ does not imply a “shared realism”, but rather a comparable model of experience.

It seems reasonable to assume that our brains are predisposed by evolution to categorise experience in these terms (activities, people, things, places, qualities). But the categories themselves are neither innate to our brains, nor ‘out there’ in the world. Rather the categories form out of our developing experience of differences and similarities in the world. For humans there is an added layer of experience, in the form of words, or more accurately wordings, that we use to categorise experience. Again our brains seem to be predisposed by recent evolution to use wordings to construe our experience to each other. But again the wordings themselves are neither innate to our brains, nor intrinsic categories in the world. Rather we learn the wordings out of our experience of people speaking. Our experience of the world, and of the wordings we use to construe the world, develop together, each shaping the other.

Pre-empting the blog’s opinion, to explain the vast array of common patterns across languages, not only in grammar (i.e. wordings), but also in phonology and social discourse, we need to look at both ‘shared history’ and ‘shared psychology’. On the other hand ‘innate syntax’ is neither necessary nor plausible, from what we know of the organisation and evolution of the brain, and the organisation and social functions of language. The notion of ‘innate syntax’ is a sterile outcome of analysing isolated sentence structures, stripped of any relationship to their actual social functions of people exchanging meanings, using formal rules derived from Greek philosophy. Notions such as ‘innate moral law’ are similarly sterile and acultural, anathema to our understanding of the evolution of human societies.


Does anyone know the Swahili translation for "Defiant One" or "He who is Defiant"?

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