The Stuff of Thought

The Stuff of Thought

Language as A Window Into Human Nature

Book - 2007
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"In this book, Steven Pinker explains how the mind works by examining the way we use words. Pinker takes on scientific questions - such as how language affects thought, and which of our concepts are innate - as well as questions from the headlines and everyday life. Why does the government care so much about dirty words? How do lobbyists bribe politicians? How do romantic comedies get such mileage out of the ambiguities of dating? Why do so many courtroom dramas hinge on disagreements about who really caused a person's death? Why have the last two American presidents gotten into trouble through the semantic niceties of their words? And why is bulk e-mail called spam?"--BOOK JACKET.
Publisher: New York : Viking, 2007
ISBN: 9780670063277
Characteristics: ix, 499 p. : ill. ; 24 cm


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Mar 27, 2018

I am on pg 83.

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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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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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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