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The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker

The Stuff of Thought (2007)

by Steven Pinker

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This is an interesting book. I always benefit from Pinker's insights on science and the general world. But I think this book lacks a cohesive element to it that his other books have achieved. ( )
  TJWilson | May 19, 2014 |
My favorite chapter was "Games People Play" which is all about how people save face by asking for things in indirect ways.

"If you know that I've asked you for sex and have been turned down, and I know that I've asked you for sex and been turned down, we can pretend that it never happened and continue to be (or at least pretend to be) friends. But if I know that you know, and you know that I know that you know, and so on, then the charade can no longer be maintained."

Go ahead, read that again. It really does make sense!
( )
  JenneB | Apr 2, 2013 |
This book is definitely not for someone with only a passing interest in linguistics. The first few chapter were slow reading for me but had a lot of good background information about the different theories of language acquisition. My favorite chapters were 5-8 about metaphor, naming, swearing and the "games people play" -- why do we speak in veiled language instead of being more direct?

I found this book really fascinating and funny. Pinker made some of the more difficult to grasp concepts as accessible as possible and made me laugh in the process. ( )
  kshroyer | Mar 30, 2013 |
A bit tough, but still interesting look at the relation between language and the mind as well as language's role in society. Covers a wide field of topics, with some success in pragmatics, and becomes a bit tough over analysis of verb types. ( )
  HadriantheBlind | Mar 29, 2013 |
This is a difficult book to stick a rating on. Its content will no doubt appeal to a niche audience. The first half is a bit like reading the text for a college lecture. Pinker explores verbs and the way we use them, from tenses to the reasons for our various word choices in conversation. I found the information interesting but, at times, weighty and definitely not 'pleasure reading'.

The second half of this book is a much quicker, easier read. Pinker builds off the information in the first half, exploring our use of metaphors in speech and in thought, how names arise, why we find some words more offensive than others, and why people rarely say what they really mean.

If you're looking for a kind of pop culture, light read on language and thought, this probably isn't the one. If you love language and you're also interested in how the mind works, Steven Pinker will take you on a fascinating exploration. ( )
  Darcia | Nov 13, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (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. (Preface)
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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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670063274, Hardcover)

"New York Times" bestselling author Steven Pinker possesses that rare combination of scientific aptitude and verbal eloquence that enables him to provide lucid explanations of deep and powerful ideas. His previous books?including the Pulitzer Prize finalist "The Blank Slate"?have catapulted him into the limelight as one of today's most important and popular science writers.
Now, in "The Stuff of Thought," Pinker marries two of the subjects he knows best: language and human nature. The result is a fascinating look at how our words explain our nature. What does swearing reveal about our emotions? Why does innuendo disclose something about relationships? Pinker reveals how our use of prepositions and tenses taps into peculiarly human concepts of space and time, and how our nouns and verbs speak to our notions of matter. Even the names we give our babies have important things to say about our relations to our children and to society.
With his signature wit and style, Pinker takes on scientific questions like whether language affects thought, as well as forays into everyday life?why is bulk e-mail called spam and how do romantic comedies get such mileage out of the ambiguities of dating? "The Stuff of Thought" is a brilliantly crafted and highly readable work that will appeal to fans of readers of everything from "The Selfish Gene" and "Blink" to "Eats, Shoots & Leaves."

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:47:32 -0400)

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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.… (more)

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