Public Release: 

Professor Berent gives phonology the respect it deserves in new book

Northeastern University College of Science

BOSTON, Mass. -- All languages--spoken or signed--are comprised of patterns of meaningless elements. We distinguish "god" and "dog"; we write blogs (not lbogs), and rhyme flood and blood. We begin extracting those sound patterns in early development (indeed, well before birth); we extend them even to words we've never heard before, and our instinct to do so is so robust that children have been shown to generate such patterns spontaneously, even if they have never been exposed to a language.

This ability to pattern words from meaningless linguistic elements is called phonology.

In this book, Northeastern University Prof. Iris Berent takes a bold new approach to studying to this component of the human language faculty. She proposes that the phonological system is a specialized system of "core knowledge"--an innate, set of universal linguistic principles present already in early development and affecting a broad range of phenomena, ranging from our instinctive linguistic communication to the cultural invention of reading and writing. She evaluates this proposal by adopting a fresh interdisciplinary perspective, integrating findings ranging from formal linguistics to cognitive psychology, neuroscience, genetics, and comparative research with nonhumans.


"The Phonological Mind" will be available in February 2013. To read an excerpt, reviews, or to pre-order Prof. Berent's book, please visit

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