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The Stuff of Thought

Language as A Window Into Human Nature
Pinker, Steven (Book - 2007 )
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Stuff of Thought


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Psychologist Pinker explains how the mind works in a completely new way--by examining how we use words. Every time we swear, we reveal something about human emotions. When we use an innuendo to convey a bribe, threat, or sexual come-on (rather than just blurting it out), we disclose something about human relationships. Our use of prepositions and tenses tap into peculiarly human concepts of space and time, and our nouns and verbs tap into mental models of matter and causation. Even the names we give our babies, as they change from decade to decade, have important things to day about our relations to our children and to society. Pinker takes on both scientific questions--such as whether language affects thought, and which of our concepts are innate--and questions from the headlines and everyday life.--From publisher description.
Authors: Pinker, Steven, 1954-
Title: The stuff of thought
language as a window into human nature
Publisher: New York :, Viking,, 2007
Characteristics: ix, 499 p. :,ill. ;,24 cm
Statement of Responsibility: Steven Pinker
Summary: Psychologist Pinker explains how the mind works in a completely new way--by examining how we use words. Every time we swear, we reveal something about human emotions. When we use an innuendo to convey a bribe, threat, or sexual come-on (rather than just blurting it out), we disclose something about human relationships. Our use of prepositions and tenses tap into peculiarly human concepts of space and time, and our nouns and verbs tap into mental models of matter and causation. Even the names we give our babies, as they change from decade to decade, have important things to day about our relations to our children and to society. Pinker takes on both scientific questions--such as whether language affects thought, and which of our concepts are innate--and questions from the headlines and everyday life.--From publisher description.
ISBN: 9780670063277
0670063274
Branch Call Number: 401 P655s 2007
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Report This Dec 08, 2007
  • Ichérō rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A fitting conclusion to not one but TWO separate trilogies by Pinker. The first is his language trilogy (The Language Instinct and Words and Rules) and the second his human nature trilogy (How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate). In this tome, Pinker uses language and word use as a way to reverse engineer aspects of human nature and cognitive function. Why do we swear? How fundamental is metaphor to our cognitive functioning? Why do we employ indirect locutions in interpersonal communication, especially in bribes, requests, and come-ons? What are the cognitive building blocks of thought and do they conform to the structure of reality? Why are there so many Steves in the boomer generation? What do words and their syntactic constraints tell us about about our own constraints in conceptualizing? A must read for word-mavens and others who delight in the function and form of language, and for anyone interested in human nature and the stuff of thought.

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Report This Dec 08, 2007
  • Ichérō rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Coarse Language: In the chapter The Seven Words You Can't Say on Television, Pinker analyzes the universalities of swearing. As he points out, profanity is highly emotion-laden; I suppose some might be offended at some of the content of the chapter. (Of course, they'd probably most benefit from reading it...) This chapter features one of the most oddly humorous footnotes I've encountered in a science book.

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Report This Dec 08, 2007
  • Ichérō rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Language is not just a window into human nature but a fistula: an open wound through which our innards are exposed to an infectious world.

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