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New York Times
Christine Kenneally
Thomas Riggins
Dan Schneider

Steven Pinker

The Stuff of Thought

The relationship between language and thought is a topic which has generated a considerable amount of argument. In The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature Steven Pinker shows that a deep look at the ins and outs of language can move us away from empty philosophising and give some valuable insights into the workings of our minds.

The book starts by looking at the subtle differences in grammar based upon the things talked about. For instance we can load or throw hay into a wagon, but we can't throw a wagon with hay. Pinker goes on to examine the various theories people have had on the nature of thought - is the mind a 'blank slate' or do we come preprogrammed with huge numbers of concepts. He then looks at how we use the concepts of space and time in our language, which brings the reader on to a chapter on metaphors, and how their metaphorical nature is forgotten over time. The chapter 'What's in a name' looks at how words and names can vary in popularity, and at how new words can arise - but they're usually not the ones on the lists of 'This year's new words'. This is followed by a chapter on the sort of language by which we might express our thoughts directly - obscenities and the like. Pinker then looks at how our culture affects the way we say things, for example in the use of euphemisms.

In his treatment of a philosophical topic, Pinker seems to have caught a bit of the philosophers disease - the chapters are pretty long and some readers might struggle to get through this book. Also, I would have liked more of a summary at the end of what the book has told us about the nature of thought. But if you're the sort of person who likes finding out lots of details about the peculiarities of language then I would think that this is a book for you. info
Hardcover 512 pages  
ISBN: 0713997419
Salesrank: 427953
Weight:2.03 lbs
Published: 2007 Allen Lane
Marketplace:New from £16.49:Used from £0.01
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Product Description
This New York Times bestseller is an exciting and fearless investigation of language from the author of Better Angels of Our Nature and The Sense of Style and Enlightenment Now.

"Curious, inventive, fearless, naughty."
--The New York Times Book Review

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 popular science writers. In The Stuff of Thought, Pinker presents a fascinating look at how our words explain our nature. Considering scientific questions with examples from everyday life, The Stuff of Thought is a brilliantly crafted and highly readable work that will appeal to fans of everything from The Selfish Gene and Blink to Eats, Shoots & Leaves.