The Stuff of Thought

The Stuff of Thought

Language as A Window Into Human Nature

Book - 2007
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Steven Pinker analyses what words actually mean and how we use them, and he reveals what this can tell us about ourselves. He shows how we use space and motion as metaphors for more abstracted ideas, and uncovers the deeper structures of human thought that have been shaped by evolutionary history.
Publisher: New York : Viking, c2007
ISBN: 9780670063277
0670063274
Branch Call Number: 401 PIN
Characteristics: ix, 499 p. :,ill. ;,24 cm

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Ichérō
Dec 08, 2007

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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Ichérō
Nov 10, 2007

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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Ichérō
Dec 08, 2007

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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