Keeping Those Words in Mind: How Language Creates Meaning

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Keeping Those Words in Mind: How Language Creates Meaning - Max Louwerse

How can humans keep thousands of words in mind and have no difficulty understanding trillions of sentences? The answer to this question might lie in parents teaching their children language skills, or in in the human brain, which may be equipped with a language instinct or maybe in impressive memory skills that link words to their perceptual information. Undoubtedly, there is some truth to some of these explanations. But one answer – perhaps the most important answer – has been largely ignored. Keeping Those Words in Mind tries to remedy this oversight.

Linguist and cognitive psychologist Max Louwerse, PhD. argues that understanding language is not just possible because of memory, brains, environment and computation, but because of the patterns in the sequence of sounds and words themselves. He demonstrates that what seems to be an arbitrary communication system, with arbitrary characters and sounds that become words, and arbitrary meanings for those words, actually is a well-organized system that has evolved over tens of thousands of years to make communication as efficient as it is. What is needed for humans to acquire language, is for humans to recognize and discover the patterns in our communication system.

By examining how our brains process language and find patterns, the intricacies of the language system itself, and even scientific breakthroughs in computer science and artificial intelligence, Keeping Those Words in Mind brings a brand new and interdisciplinary explanation for our ability to extract meaning from language.

Keeping Those Words in Mind: How Language Creates Meaning - About the Author

Max M. Louwerse is Professor in Cognitive Psychology and Artificial Intelligence in the Department of Cognitive Science & Artificial Intelligence at Tilburg University, The Netherlands. He received his PhD in Linguistics (University of Edinburgh, UK) and worked at the University of Memphis, USA, as Full Professor in the Department of Psychology and the Institute for Intelligent Systems.

He published over 150 articles in journals, proceedings and books in cognitive science, computational linguistics, and psycholinguistics and holds two patents. Louwerse served as principal investigator, co-principal investigator, or senior researcher on projects acquiring over $20 million on intelligent tutoring systems, embodied conversational agents, and text analytics, virtual and augmented reality, serious games and learning, and natural language and data science solutions.

Louwerse is author of the popular science book Keeping those Words in Mind: How Language Creates Meaning, available in (online) bookstores internationally. For more information, please see

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  • Book Dimensions

    16.61 x 3.3 x 23.67 cm

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  • Book Publication Date

    15 Aug. 2021

  • Book Publisher

    Prometheus Books

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