Keeping Those Words in Mind

Keeping Those Words in Mind

How Language Creates Meaning

Max Louwerse


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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.


Max Louwerse:
Max Louwerse is a linguist, cognitive psychologist, and artificial intelligence researcher. He worked at universities in the United States and the United Kingdom and currently is Professor of Cognitive Psychology and Artificial Intelligence at Tilburg University, the Netherlands. Louwerse published in many different outlets answering research questions including how computers extract meaning from language, how human brains process language, how to build conversational virtual humans, and how virtual reality and artificial intelligence can change the future of education. Louwerse has set up and led several initiatives to bring academic research to society, the general public, and industry. For more information about Louwerse’s work, visit