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The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature (2007)

by Steven Pinker

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3,306384,082 (3.78)36
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.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Dense but entertaining and (of course) THOUGHT-provoking look at how language shapes our though and thought shapes our language. If you ever thought words are unimportant... ( )
  mlevel | Jan 22, 2024 |
Not as good of writing or as easily accessible as his other work, but still really good. Especially interesting for someone with young kids. ( )
  oranje | Oct 13, 2022 |
The ideas Pinker presents in this book blew my mind. Though it was a very heavy, intense read, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Before I read this, I didn't even know psycho-linguistics existed, but now that is exactly what I am interested in learning more about. ( )
  liannecollins | Jun 10, 2022 |
The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker (2007)
  arosoff | Jul 10, 2021 |
This is my second encounter with Pinker's works, the first being [b:The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language|869681|The Language Instinct How the Mind Creates Language|Steven Pinker|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1410763257l/869681._SY75_.jpg|2422982], which I read in 2015 (see my review here). As language is one of my interests, and [b:The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature|2813972|The Stuff of Thought Language as a Window into Human Nature|Steven Pinker|https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1348133891l/2813972._SY75_.jpg|2839893] being a sort of follow-up of / sequel to 'The Language Instinct', I simply had to read it, even if it took me a long time.

Like before, the material is heavy, not all that accessible (depending on the chapter, too), but Pinker expresses himself as clearly as possible and with the occasional wink/touch of humour. The book shows us how we humans play with language. We use words in various ways, give them literal and figurative meanings to express ourselves, our emotions, use them for plays on words, etc. in a way that fits the circumstances.

Semantics, pragmatics, different contexts (historical, political, personal, ...), taboo words, the technicalities of language, the politics, ... It's all there. Not only language is discussed here, but the sociological glasses were also used for this look into human nature with regards to language.

All in all, another recommended work by Steven Pinker. ( )
  TechThing | Jan 22, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Linguistic determinism is just one of the foes Pinker takes on. He engages with a number of rival theories of language. Sometimes he cuts a few argumentative corners in the interests of mounting a persuasive case. Still, it is not hard to forgive him. He may be partisan, but he is never boring. And he does know a lot about words.
 
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There is a theory of space and time embedded in the way we use words.
On September 11, 2001, at 8:46 A.M., a hijacked airliner crashed into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York.
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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.

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